Baltimore’s emergency call system struck by cyberattack

Baltimore’s emergency dispatch system faced a cyberattack over the weekend, reportedly causing officials to manually handle emergency calls while its automated program was temporarily shut down.

Officials learned about the “limited breach” against the city’s computer network on Sunday morning and were able to isolate the threat, Baltimore’s chief information officer Frank Johnson said in a statement issued by the mayor’s office and obtained by The Hill.

An unidentified hacker reportedly disrupted the network’s messaging functions within the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.


“Once all systems were properly vetted, CAD was brought back online. No personal data of any citizen was compromised in this attack. The City continues to work with its federal partners to determine the source of the intrusion,” Johnson said in the statement.

Johnson told The Baltimore Sun that employees manually took over handling emergency calls to 911 and 311 until the system was back up and running. City officials mitigated the hack by isolating and taking offline the breached server, he said.

“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 told the newspaper. 

Baltimore is the second U.S. city to recently face a cyberattack, after Atlanta faced a ransomware attack earlier this month that affected a range of the city’s services, like bill collection operations.

A senior U.S. cyber security official told NBC News there were no indications that the two recent attacks on city systems are related.

In Baltimore, the dispatch system was fully restored Monday morning at 2 a.m., roughly 17 hours after the hack was first identified, officials said.

FBI spokesman Dave Fitz told the city’s local newspaper that they provided Baltimore with some technical assistance with the breach.

Updated: 6:50 p.m.


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