We have all heard of computer virus’s that take over unsuspecting victims PC’s and start overwhelming websites as part of a massive campaign utilizing thousands of these virus driven “drone” or “bot” systems. These “attacks” are hard to combat and have done their fair share of damage on the Internet.
A lesser known but very similar type of attack occurs with great regularity with business phone systems that has become known as a “Denial of Service Attack”. These attacks involve either automated or actual callers overwhelming an organization’s ability to take inbound calls, often resulting in legitimate calls not being able to reach a caller in a timely manner when they need assistance, service, or, in extreme cases, report a real emergency.
A couple of days ago, at approximately 5:25 pm, the Tuscaloosa Police Department was the target of a Telephone Denial of Service Attack. The perpetrators (Foreign Hackers) of the attack launched numerous phone calls against the police department’s phone systems, tying up the system. Again in this case the objective of the attacks was to prevent the agency from receiving legitimate calls and disrupt public safety operations.
Attacks of this nature are ongoing throughout the US and Canada, with over 200 cases documented to this point. Some people muse this may be yet another way for terrorists to attack the United States, potentially weakening businesses or, more importantly, emergency response teams.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department has had to take further steps to protect its’ phone systems. Blocked phone numbers and international numbers trying to call the administrative lines at the police department are being screened in the short term and likely will not go through as a precaution from further attacks. The police department confirms these precautionary changes will not affect the 911 emergency lines. You might think twice though about calling any of their administrative lines from a blocked number. In the event of an emergency the department asks that callers always dial 911. TPD is currently working with Federal Agencies on the incident.
Interestingly, another business in the same Tuscaloosa area experienced a similar incident Friday morning. The complainant stated they received over 180 calls before they took the phone of the hook because it was disrupting the business. The caller, who had a foreign accent, stated they were trying to collect money that an employee owned them.
Law enforcement agencies agree that Telephone Denial of Service Attacks are no laughing matter and should be reported immediately when they occur.