Improving Protection Against Cybersecurity Attacks of Emergency Dispatch Centers


  • James Sweeney Capella University, MN, USA
  • Vu Tran Capella University, MN, USA



911 Dispatcher Centre, DDoS, TDoS, 911 communications centre, PSAP, Public Service answering point


Public service answering points (PSAPs), also known as 911 dispatch centers, serve as integral and critical infrastructure components that serves as a conduit between the public and emergency assistance such as police, fire and emergency medical services.  It has been demonstrated in previous research, that PSAPs may be exceptionally vulnerable to telephonic and distributed denial of service (TDoS/DDoS) attacks with potentially devastating effects.  It is the purpose of this study is to gather the best practices from experts and tap into the knowledge of the professionals tasked with safeguarding PSAPs every day.  Due to the unknown full capabilities of the PSAPs and the antiquated infrastructure on which they must operate, it is unclear just what safeguards are in place to defend these critical infrastructure components against attacks of this nature.  To gather this information, a multiple rounds qualitative Delphi study was conducted.  Through this process, participants were asked to comment on current tactics and techniques, practices that could be implemented under ideal conditions without political or financial hurdles and how to bridge the gap between current and optimal environments.  PSAP administrators, hereby referred to as experts, with a minimum of five years of experience working within a United States PSAP were included in this study and provided a firm understanding of their capabilities.  The suggestions provided by participants included patch managements, updated hardware, federally mandated standards, regular plan exercises, and standardized education.  After gathering and analysing the data, three basic tenets could be appreciated including cyber hygiene, preparedness and intelligence, and education and training.  It is expected that the results of this study will prove integral in not only better securing the PSAPs within the United States critical infrastructure, but also understanding some of the hurdles and difficulties PSAP administrators must overcome.