Bucks County has restored “core functionality” to its emergency communications department’s computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system.
The system, which documents emergency calls, had been out of service for nine-days after a ransomware attack took the system offline Jan. 21.
County staff worked with public safety and law enforcement to restore the power while alerting other government agencies that a ransomware called “Akira” was suspected in the attack. The county stressed that “at no point during the outage were the county’s 911 call-taking abilities interrupted,” said county spokesman James O’Malley.
Staff brought the CAD system core back online Tuesday afternoon but a timeline for full restoration has not been established, O’Malley stated. He added that the county’s connectivity to state and federal databases containing criminal justice information also has been restored.
During the outage, dispatchers relied on backup systems to document and dispatch calls. And since an app that was used to alert firefighters to calls through their cellphones was affected, they used pagers to alert volunteers, said Upper Makefield Fire Chief Tim Brewer. The app has been restored, O’Malley said.
State Sen. Frank Farry, who also is chief of the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Co., said Tuesday that the cell app is a useful tool that helped him and other fire chiefs know who was responding to fire stations but no calls went unanswered because the pager and siren systems worked.
Farry said he won’t be able to attend in person a meeting taking place Wednesday in the state capital sponsored by Republican State Senators Tracy Pennycwick and Rosemary Brown to discuss cybersecurity issues faced by local government and municipal agencies. Farry had another commitment when the meeting was organized.
He said that his fire company was attacked by a ransomware about four years ago, and the perpetrators demanded $40,000 to restore the company’s records of its calls. The company couldn’t pay the money demanded so they culled records together from other sources, and moved on. But since then, they’ve backed up records so that a similar situation couldn’t happen again.
The county is also taking extra precautions now and will focus on “network security,” O’Malley said.
Emergency Services Director Audrey Kenny, said, “We here at the Emergency Services cannot say enough about the kindness, professionalism and patience our first responder community has extended to us during the outage — especially to our 911 dispatchers who have been working extra hard.
“With some of the weight lifted from our dispatchers, we now look forward to working with our partner agencies to restore their full access to these critical tools as quickly and safely as we possibly can,” Kenny said.