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Public Safety Telecommunicators Deliver a Resilient Cyber Defense for all Hoosiers

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Blog topics:  Archive

Ed ReuterBy Ed Reuter

As if the urgency of a single 911 call isn't important enough in saving someone's life, imagine being the person at the emergency call center, whose responsibility it is to urgently send help, having to contend with the threat of a cyberattack shutting down every call from getting through its system?

Varying in intensity and sophistication, these types of cyber-related incidents that have impacted local 911 centers is adding to the already intense, around-the-clock work performed by the public safety telecommunicators, whose dedication to their jobs makes life easier for all of us. Amid these challenges, it is my pleasure as the executive director of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board to commend their tireless efforts as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

All of this comes at a time when the technology we're using to operate our communications systems is advancing ever rapidly. At the same time, cyber criminals are using tactics ranging from ransomware to business email compromise to steal personal data and/or take over control of the system itself. That's critical, especially when it comes to local government and maintaining a solid infrastructure.

All it takes is one domino to fall and before you know it, the situation can escalate quickly, causing new problems to emerge -- including attacks on our backup systems. That said, there are practical solutions -- that can begin at the workstation of a dispatcher -- to manage these threats and allow a county or local municipality to address their public safety needs every minute of the day, including:

  • Adopt/implement clearly defined cybersecurity policies that include regular risk assessments
  • Once all the cyber policies/procedures are in place, employees will need regular training to allow them to practice as a way to recognize and stop cyber threats
  • Focus on prevention, encourage collaboration and teamwork, and evolve your rules to fit the ever-changing nature of emerging threats

The State of Indiana also offers county and local government emergency managers a range of cybersecurity resources to help improve a cybersecurity plan, as well as measure its effectiveness in the event of a cyberattack. For more information, visit the Indiana Cyber Hub to learn more about the Indiana Cybersecurity Scorecard or the Emergency Manager Cybersecurity Toolkit.

I've often said that our local 911 centers are the heart and soul of our emergency communications systems. Because of that, it's fair to say that every person who serves their community as a public safety telecommunicator possesses within themselves the heartbeat and the pulse to keep the system operating in a way that protects us all. Together with our Chair, State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and on behalf of our staff and all Hoosiers, we thank our telecommunicators for their dedication and service.

To learn more about this important topic, you are welcome to watch the latest episode of the "Days of Our Cyber Lives" podcast from the Indiana Bond Bank. State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and I are joined in the conversation by Indiana's Cybersecurity Program Director Chetrice Mosley-Romero and Mark Wuellner, executive director of the Indiana Bond Bank.

Keeping our 911 systems secure is our first priority. To learn more about the Indiana Statewide 911 Board, visit our website or on social media on Twitter or Facebook.