Baltimore’s 911 dispatch system was hacked by an unknown actor(s) over the weekend, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office confirmed Tuesday, leading to a temporary shutdown of the system and an investigation.
The system was infiltrated by unknown hackers around 8 AM on Sunday, forcing the city to shut down the entire system to take emergency calls manually, for nearly 17 hours. In statements to the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday, the Office of the Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said the morning hack had affected messaging functions built-in to the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.
The Mayor’s IT office’s chief information officer Frank Johnson said both 911 and 311 systems were “temporarily transitioned to manual mode” but insisted they operated without any disruption.
This effectively means that instead of details of incoming callers seeking emergency support being relayed to dispatchers electronically, they were relayed by call center support staff manually.
Johnson added that city personnel was able to “isolate and take offline the affected server, thus mitigating the threat” of the breach. Eventually, the CAD system was restored by 2 AM on Monday following a “thorough investigation of all network systems.”
Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said police commanders had deliberately shut down systems to ensure they “weren’t compromised to a higher level.” The commissioner also said there was “no slowdown” in police responses to crimes due to the hack.
The breach is similar to that of a widespread hack suffered by Atlanta over the weekend when a group demanded $51,000 in bitcoin in exchange for destroying all of the government’s files with the threat of releasing them if they weren’t paid.
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