Audit of NYC Wireless Network Crash Outlines Causes, Fixes

Gartner Consulting recently conducted a thorough audit detailing the contributing factors and timeline of events leading up to the Y2K-like outage of New York City's wireless network in April.

by Patrick Groves / June 26, 2019
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New York City leadership is rapidly implementing key recommendations from a report analyzing the April crash of the city’s official wireless network.

The audit, conducted by Gartner Consulting, found that failing to replace the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) in a timely manner exposed the city to the high-risk GPS rollover. The report also lists that the maintenance vendor, Northrop Grumman, did not promptly notify the Department of Internet Technology and Telecommunications about the crash and a clear decision-making communication structure was not rapidly implemented, among others findings, some of which are redacted.

Mayor’s Press Office Deputy Press Secretary Laura Feyer told Government Technology that after NYCWiN had been restored, the city employed Gartner Consulting to learn what had occurred and to prevent it from happening again.

“The NYCWiN system went down from April 6 to April 17, due to a previously scheduled upgrade of the global positioning system,” Feyer said. “When we became aware of the outage, the city worked around the clock to make the necessary repairs and get the system back up and running. During that time, there were no impacts on city functioning –– relevant agencies deployed mitigation measures as needed.”

The audit acknowledges the GPS rollover bug, a cousin of Y2K, could have been prevented by a firmware update physically installed at network nodes by Northrop Grumman.

“… its impact and this specific NYCWiN incident was the direct result of multiple avoidable active and latent factors,” the report states.

Gartner’s audit made 13 recommendations for the city to consider. Feyer said six of the 13 are already completed, with the remaining seven currently at varying degrees of implementation.

“While there were no interruptions to city services during the NYCWiN outage, it is critical we learn from this event,” said Deputy Mayor of Operations Laura Anglin in a prepared statement. “We have reviewed the report and look forward to implementing its recommendations.”

Feyer said two recommendations are of particular importance: recommendation 12, which states the city should perform a detailed analysis of all critical technology infrastructure to understand the scope of potential disruptions and develop recovery strategies; recommendation 13, that outlines the establishment of a critical technology task force to update all emergency and continuity plans and evaluate the city’s level of preparedness.

“These recommendations serve as a starting point,” the audit’s conclusion states. “It is essential that the city take immediate action to examine preparedness regarding all its critical technology infrastructure, in-process projects and any related assets, including those that may be operated in whole or part by vendors on behalf of the city.”

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