Fitzpatrick, Homeland Security Continue Focus on Cybersecurity

Roundtable focuses on threats to first responder emergency communication systems

July 18, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) joined members of the Committee on Homeland Security’s subcommittees on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection for a joint briefing on the cybersecurity of emergency communications systems. The roundtable brought together members of Congress with experts in public safety and cybersecurity to discuss the cyber risks facing emergency communications and public safety.

“Whether it is state actors from North Korea to Russia, hacktivists or cyber-criminals targeting consumer and personal data, Cybersecurity is a serious national and economic security issue that our country will continue face over the decades to come. However, this cyber threat extends beyond government agencies and financial institutions into previously unconsidered territory, including our emergency communications system,” said Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the first responder community, these systems are vital in a time of local emergency. The ability to communicate and execute key command and control responsibilities depends on cyber-based technologies which, if interrupted, could cost precious response time and lives. We are working to bring stakeholders together to understand these threats and protect these invaluable systems.”

First responder communications technology continues to evolve, providing enhanced capabilities for first responders.  But, with that benefit comes the risk of cybersecurity vulnerabilities, as these systems and applications are IP based and interconnected.  In the last few years, there have been more than 300 telephony denial-of-service (TDoS) attacks against public safety organizations, public-safety access points (PSAPs), police departments, hospitals and fire departments.  Attackers disrupt availability of traditional 911 systems by using auto-dialers to overwhelm PSAP phone lines and cause congestion, preventing legitimate 911 calls from connecting.

“It is worth noting that our enemies today need not attack our government to have a substantive strategic effect on our nation.  Attacking civilian or economic infrastructure may be a more effective approach in the modern era, particularly for asymmetric actors like terrorist groups. Similarly, an increasing number and range of non-state groups use cyber-enabled methods to advance their own agendas. Major criminal gangs, organized crime groups, and terrorist organizations are growing their cyber capabilities to go beyond mere communication, recruitment, and incitement,” noted Gen. Keith B. Alexander (Ret. USA), President and Chief Executive Officer of IronNet Cybersecurity, at a previous committee hearing.

Fitzpatrick continues to push for a cybersecurity agency at DHS so the agency can most effectively carry out civilian cyber defense statutory authorities.