AMU Emergency Management Public Safety

Could a DDoS Cyber Attack Take Down a 911 Emergency System?

Bots & botnets

[link url=”” title=”Norton”], an antivirus program developer, defines a bot as a type of malware that allows a hacker/attacker to take control of an affected computer. When talking about botnets, and their ability to disrupt a complete system, this refers to a network of infected devices or machines working together at the command of their “botherder” or “botmaster” to complete a set task.

Are we bot carriers?

In a survey conducted by the [link url=”” title=”Pew Research Center’s Internet American Life Project”], 90 percent of adults now own cell phones, indicating a 26 percent growth across the last nine years. According to [link url=”” title=”BullGuard Security”], which released the world’s first Internet of Things (IoT) vulnerability checker, “smartphones are mini laptops,” and when a phone is infected with a mobile bot, the malicious program is downloaded to the phone unnoticed and can potentially gain access to files and documents. Malicious software can also take over the operating system, giving the botmaster the ability to do as they please when ready.

Potential attack on the nation’s infrastructure

According to a [link url=”” title=”survey by the Centers of Disease Control”] (CDC) in 2014, nearly 44 percent of homes have done away with landline phones and have moved to wireless means of communication through the use of smartphones. This move has put areas of the nation’s critical infrastructure at risk to disruption and the American people vulnerable to botnet attacks, as seen through the study done by [link url=”” title=”researchers from Ben Gurion University (BGU)”].

As the CDC survey indicated, many 911 calls are made from cellular devices. This enticed a group of researchers from BGU to determine what would happen if a mobile botnet were able to initiate a distribute denial of service (DDoS) attack on a 911 emergency system. A DDoS attack would make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. DDoS attacks have increased tremendously over the last year, according to Help Net Security.

The researcher’s findings ultimately showed that the emergency services sector would be incapable of completing its mission if an attack of this nature, at the right volume, were to occur. The study outlines the potential of an attack involving 6K bots (roughly $100k in hardware), which could block emergency services in a state for days. The study identified areas of concern that respective organizations, lawmakers, and security professionals need to be aware to develop a means to prevent such a 911-DDoS attack in the future.

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Adam served ten years in the United States Army primarily in the Operations and Physical Security realm. His tour allowed him to serve in the DC Metro area as the Operations for a Military Police Company and a Sniper/Observer team member for the Military District of Washington's Special Reaction Team, Hawaii as Operations for a Brigade Combat Team, and Fort Leavenworth as the Operations for the Department of Emergency Services as well as a Physical Security Specialist. Adam now works for the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, where Critical Thinking and Group Think Mitigation are taught in hopes of bettering the decision making process and the development of better plans and ideas.

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