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Massachusetts 911 Outage Caused by Errant Firewall

A statewide outage of the Massachusetts 911 system was the result of a firewall that blocked calls from reaching emergency responders.

A statewide outage of the 911 emergency response system in Massachusetts this week was caused by an errant firewall that prevented calls from getting to the 911 dispatch centers.

The Massachusetts  Executive Office of Public Safety and Security described the two-hour outage on Tuesday as a “technical issue” with its 911 vendor Comtech that was the result of a firewall installed to provide protection against cyberattacks and hacking.

“The firewall prevented calls from getting to the 911 dispatch centers, also known as Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs),” the agency said. “Comtech’s initial review of the incident has confirmed that the interruption was not the result of a cyberattack or hack; However, the exact reason the firewall stopped calls from reaching dispatch centers remains under review.”

The agency said that although some emergency calls were not successful, the system allows dispatch centers to identify the phone number of callers and return those calls.  The department said it did not receive any reports of emergencies impacted during the interruption.

Firewall issue caused Massachusetts 911 Outage

The State 911 Department said the interruptions started around 1:15 pm on Tuesday and set off public safety alert messages to residents throughout Massachusetts. The disruption lasted approximately two hours until operation was fully restored at 3:15 pm.

“As the full review of the cause continues, Comtech has advised State 911 that they have applied a technical solution to ensure that this does not happen again,” the agency said.

Related: US Investigating CenturyLink Internet Outage, 911 Failures

Related: Arizona Teen Indicted Over 911 Cyberattacks

Related: Critical Code Execution Vulnerabilities in VMware vCenter Server

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Written By

Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. He is a security community engagement expert who has built programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. Ryan is a founding-director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world.

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