Cybersecurity incident impacting Bucks County's emergency communication system

Dispatchers are reportedly using pen and paper to take information from callers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Cybersecurity incident impacting Bucks Co. emergency comms system
Cybersecurity incident impacting Bucks Co. emergency comms system

BUCKS COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Bucks County Department of Emergency Communications is investigating a cybersecurity incident that's reportedly affecting the dispatch system.

In a letter to police, fire and EMS chiefs, the county said all phone and radio systems remain operational.

However, dispatchers are reportedly using pen and paper to take information from callers after the county's computer-aided dispatch system, known as CAD, was hit with a cyberattack.

According to the county, CAD is primarily used to help dispatchers and first responders document incidents. The county says the system does not impact call-taking or the ability to respond.

Officials say despite the cybersecurity incident, they are still able to receive 911 calls and dispatch first responders immediately.

Action News spoke to a cybersecurity expert, who said most organizations have policies and procedures around responding to incidents like this.

"I would imagine they have a very clearly defined process of what constitutes a security event and how the teams are going to respond," Justin Drabouski, the director of security for Fraser Advanced Information Systems, said.

"Really what they're doing at this point is probably going right down that checklist and following their own pre-determined plan."

Drabouski said the biggest potential risk the county could be looking at right now is the exposure of any data.

"I'm sure being a 911 system that would record personal information for people who call into the system, it probably records information related to law enforcement agencies and how they respond. All of that would be considered sensitive and private. They're going to try to determine if any of that data has been exposed as part of this incident," he said.

County IT is assessing the issue and investigating. State and federal partner agencies are also assisting in the response and investigation.

Action News reached out to the FBI and Bucks County District Attorney's Office to see if they are involved in the investigation. Neither agency responded to our requests.

The system has been offline since Sunday afternoon. There is no word yet on how long the restoration will take.

An investigation is underway into the incident.