Massachusetts 911 outage was caused by computer firewall, not a cyberattack, officials say

An outage that shut down the 911 system in Massachusetts for two hours on Tuesday was caused by a computer firewall and not due to a cyberattack or hack, a preliminary investigation has revealed.

But the exact reason the firewall “stopped calls from reaching dispatch centers remains under review,” the state’s office of public safety and security said in a statement on X.

Calls were prevented from reaching 911 dispatchers from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, the statement said – while the first alert from the state acknowledging an issue with the system came at 2:17 p.m. via X.

Residents received a public safety alert message on their phones saying 911 services were down for the whole state and delays in public safety response might occur at 2:30 p.m.

The firewall is a “safety feature that provides protection against cyberattacks and hacking,” officials said, adding it instead prevented calls from getting to 911 dispatch centers.

Wednesday’s statement said the disruption was resolved at 3:15 p.m. An update from officials confirming its resolution was posted on social media almost 30 minutes later.

The 911 department “will take all necessary steps to prevent a future occurrence,” its Executive Director Frank Pozniak said in the Wednesday statement. Pozniak also thanked the public for its patience during the outage.

There were no reports of emergencies impacted by the outage, the statement noted.

Residents looking to contact officials while the 911 system was down could call local police departments for assistance and use the local red call boxes on streets to alert emergency services, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said Tuesday.

Massachusetts’ public safety answering system received an average of 8,800 calls per day in 2023, according to the Wednesday’s statement.

CNN’s Michelle Watson, Emma Tucker, Nic Anderson and Celina Tebor contributed to this report.

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