Security & Fraud

Hackers Use Smartphones To Block 911 Access

A new attack is emerging in which the hackers can prevent access to 911, and it may just be because of vulnerabilities in the system.

That’s according to Business Insider, which laid out how the new attack works. Similar to how a denial-of-service attack floods a website with traffic, bringing the site down, the same thing can happen to 911 call centers. The hacker could hijack the smartphones and have them call a particular phone number or site, flooding it with so much traffic or calls that it would bring it down.

According to the report, in October, the first of this type of attack happened in Arizona. An 18-year-old hacker was nabbed for the attack and charged with unleashing a denial-of-service attack on a 911 call center. The report noted that lots of internet companies are making big moves to protect against denial-of-service attacks, such as Google Shield, which protects news websites from getting hit with this type of attack, but more needs to be done to protect the nation’s 911 system.

Business Insider looked at the impact denial-of-service attacks would have on 911 services in North Carolina by setting up a simulated 911 service that mimics that of the state. It also set up one that simulates the national 911 network. After hitting it with a denial-of-service attack, it found it is possible to reduce the availability of 911 significantly by infecting only 6,000 smartphones, or 0.0006 percent of the state’s population. Nationally, it would only take 200,000 hijacked smartphones.

The report speculated that denial-of-service attacks on 911 call service centers wouldn’t be as impactful if the malicious calls could be spotted and then blocked when they are placed. A defense system would be created to identify 911 calls from a number if it made more than a predetermined amount of calls in a period of time, thus reducing the chances of the attack being successful.

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