Bucks County officials promise that their 911 system is still operational despite what they call a dayslong “cybersecurity incident.”
“If you call us for an emergency response, our dispatchers will get you the help you need,” said Bucks County Emergency Services Director Audrey Kenny. She assured area citizens that there wouldn’t be any delay if someone called 911 and that the county’s emergency services radios and phones still work.
A cyberattack hit the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system on Sunday. The county has not said if hackers got into any other systems.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) describes CAD as technology that helps 911 operators and dispatchers “prioritize and record incident calls, identify the status and location of responders in the field, and effectively dispatch responder personnel.” It also stores information, including the length of phone calls and the time they were made.
CAD systems can connect to various databases across the U.S., including the National Crime Information Center and the National Incident-Based Reporter System. It can also take data from license plate readers and jail systems.
DHS has praised CAD for helping police and firefighters prioritize more critical 911 calls. They cited work done by first responders during natural disasters.
However, CAD systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hackers attacked The City of Dallas’s CAD system last year as part of a ransomware attack. It took two days to restore the program. The city speculated that hackers got into their systems through a service account and by “exploiting legitimate third-party remote management utilities.”
In 2018, Baltimore City’s CAD server was taken down by hackers for 17 hours. A city spokesperson blamed “an internal change to the firewall by a technician who was troubleshooting an unrelated communications issue” with the CAD system.
It’s unknown when Bucks County’s CAD system will return online. Kenny said, “The county has partnered with state and federal agencies and has retained best-in-class incident response professionals to assist in our ongoing investigation.”
In the interim, 911 dispatchers will use phones and radios to communicate with police, firefighters, and EMS.