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Firewall to Prevent Cyber Attacks Caused Mass. 911 Outage

Although some calls didn’t go through, Massachusetts 911 officials are unaware of any emergencies that were affected by the outage. The system allows dispatchers to identify and return 911 calls.

a digital rendering of cyberattacks on a map
(TNS) - A firewall designed to prevent cyberattacks and hacking was to blame for the 911 outage that hit Massachusetts this week, state officials said Wednesday.

Massachusetts’ 911 system was down for about two hours Tuesday, making it impossible for anyone to reach emergency services using the emergency number.

In a statement Wednesday, the Massachusetts State 911 Department determined the outage, which lasted from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., was due to a safety feature that prevents cyberattacks, though the reason for that is still under review.

While some calls didn’t go through, the state said the system “allows dispatch centers to identify the phone number of callers and return those calls.” As a result, the department was not aware of any emergencies being negatively affected by the outage.

“The Massachusetts State 911 Department is deeply committed to providing reliable, state-of-the-art 911 services to all Massachusetts residents and visitors in an emergency,” Executive Director of the State 911 Department Frank Pozniak said in a statement. “The department will take all necessary steps to prevent a future occurrence.”

Police and fire departments on Cape Ann all sent out alerts advising those who needed emergency services to call their business lines.

The Massachusetts disruption caused confusion in other northeastern states, where some residents also got notifications on their phones. But authorities in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York and Vermont all said their systems were operational.

“We are aware that some individuals in Vermont have received wireless notifications about the Massachusetts event,” Barbara Neal, executive director of the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board, said. “The official reason for that is unknown but it may be related to individuals having signed up for an alerting system in Massachusetts or having been at or near the Massachusetts border when the wireless alert was issued by Massachusetts.”

Several years ago, Massachusetts suffered sporadic 911 outages. At the time, it was blamed on outages from Louisiana -based CenturyLink, which affected some Verizon customers. In April, workers installing a light pole in Missouri cut into a fiber line, knocking out 911 service for emergency agencies in Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota.

©2024 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.