Write at least 500 words analyzing a subject you find in this article related to a threat to confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data. Use an example from the news.
Cyber Risks to Next Generation 911
The advent of Next Generation 911 (NG911) systems, which operate on an Internet Protocol (IP)
platform, enables interconnection on with a wide range of public and private networks, such as wireless
networks, the Internet, and regular phone networks. NG911 systems will enhance the current capabilities
of today’s 911 networks, allowing
communication, providing greater situational
NG911 will enhance
NG911 is different from
awareness to dispatchers and emergency
responders, and establishing a level of
Enables receipt of data
(e.g., video, text) from
identity management and
resilience not previously possible. NG911
the public over a variety
will allow Public Safety Answering Points
Enables data sharing
Allows for potential attacks
(PSAPs) to accept and process a range of
to quickly escalate or
information from responders and the public
Improves location data
proliferate across systems
alike, including real-time text, images, video,
Allows for virtual
Introduces new attack
PSAPs for survivability
and voice calls. In addition, NG911 will
provide PSAPs with supplemental location
Figure 1: NG911 Benefits and Risks
data, which may enable more effective
Traditional 911 services typically operate over standard voice-based telephone networks and use
software, such as computer-aided dispatch systems, that operate on closed, internal networks with little
to no interconnections with other systems. The limited means of entry into the traditional 911 network
significantly limited potential attack vectors, and what little cyber risk existed could be easily managed.
NG911’s interconnections enable new response capabilities, as shown in Figure 1. However, they also
represent new vectors for attack that can disrupt or disable PSAP operations, broadening the concerns
of―and complicating the mitigation and management of―cyber risks across all levels of government.
The potential cyber risks to a NG911 system do not undermine its tremendous benefits. Nevertheless,
cyber risks do present a new level of exposure that PSAPs must understand and actively manage as a part
of a comprehensive risk management program. Past events have proven 911 systems are attractive targets
for cyber-attacks. For example, attackers have disrupted availability of traditional 911 systems by using
auto-dialers to overwhelm PSAP phone lines and cause congestion, preventing legitimate 911 calls from
going through [commonly called Telephone Denial of Service (TDoS) attacks] and location-based
records and databases that support NG911 are of interest to cyber criminals, data miners, and even nationstates wanting to access and exploit that information.
As cyber threats grow in complexity and sophistication, attacks could be more severe against an NG911
system as attackers can launch multiple distributed attacks with greater automation from a broader
geography against more targets. This issue paper provides an overview of NG911 cyber infrastructure,
conveys the cyber risk landscape associated with NG911, offers an approach for assessing and managing
risks, and provides additional NG911 resources.
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) describes NG911 systems as an IP-based system
comprised of hardware, software, data, and operational policies and procedures that:
Provides standardized interfaces from emergency call and message services;
Processes all types of emergency calls, including voice, data, and multimedia information;
Acquires and integrates additional emergency call data useful to call routing and handling;
Delivers emergency calls, messages, and data to the appropriate PSAP and other entities;
Supports data and communications needs for coordinated incident response and management; and
Provides broadband service to PSAPs or other first responder entities. 1
NENA defines several basic building blocks of NG911 systems, as described below:
• Emergency Services IP Networks
(ESInets). ESInets are at the center
of NG911 systems. These broadband
networks are engineered and managed
to use Internet protocols and standards
to carry voice and data traffic (e.g.,
text, pictures, videos) in support of
local, regional, state, and national
emergency management authorities.
• Applications and Databases. NG911
Figure 2: Simplified ESInet Diagram
uses a wide range of internal and
external databases to support its services. Internal databases validate and route data, record call details,
and enforce policy and business rules. External databases host many of the datasets that call takers
and dispatchers rely on to provide improved accuracy and shortened response time, including location
data, government records, law enforcement records, healthcare information, and infrastructure data.
• Standards and Security. NG911 uses functions and protocols that are compliant with international
IP standards, as well as standards developed within the emergency response community. NENA
defines NG911 standards based on Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) IP standards. 2 In addition
to NENA, there are a number of other entities that establish standards for NG911 systems, including
the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the Alliance for
Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), and the IETF. 3
“What is NG911?”.NENA.
The full list of NG911 functions, called the “i3” architecture, are defined in NENA 08-003, “Detailed Functional and
Interface Standards for NG911.” NENA has also defined security standard 75-001, “NENA Security for Next Generation
9-1-1 Standard (NG-SEC).” The i3 functions and standards, NG-SEC, and the full suite of other NG911 standards can
be found at
A full review of NG911 standards can be found on the National 911 Program’s website at
“Cyber infrastructure includes electronic information and communication systems, and the information contained in these systems.
…Information and communications systems are composed of hardware and software that process, store, and communicate
data of all types. Processing includes the creation, access, modification, and destruction of information. Storage includes paper,
magnetic, electronic, and all other media types. Communications include sharing and distribution of information.”
National Infrastructure Protection Plan (2009, Revised and Updated 2013)
Per the definition above, cyber infrastructure for NG911 systems includes the IP-based networks, assets,
databases, and services, as they are involved in the processing, storage, and transport of data.
Specifically, an NG911 system’s cyber infrastructure includes:
• Assets that are part of, or interconnect with, ESInets
• Service provider networks and applications that interconnect with ESInets
• Government applications and services that connect to ESInets
• Dispatch systems and components that connect to ESInets
Traditionally, the term “cyber” has been applied to only information technology (IT) systems and assets,
while communications infrastructure was considered separate. However, defining cyber infrastructure as
including both IT and communications systems accounts for the many ways in which these systems have
converged. NG911 administrators should recognize this convergence in order to more effectively counter
risks. Risks to any component of these systems could threaten an entire NG911 system or its data, so it
is important to consider systems holistically.
The NG911 Cybersecurity Risk Landscape
Cybersecurity4 risks occur when a threat exploits a vulnerability, leading to an undesired event that has
a negative consequence on the desired state of the network. The three attributes most necessary for a
secure system are often referred to as the C-I-A Triad:
Confidentiality: Ensures that data is only accessed by those authorized to see it.
Integrity: Ensures that data is trustworthy and is not altered through transmittal, storage, or retrieval.
Availability: Ensures that the infrastructure—either components of the network or the network as
a whole—is operational and committable to its intended purpose.
The CIA Triad is used as a benchmark for evaluating information system security by the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and others.
Loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability has especially severe impacts in the emergency response
domain. For example, loss of confidentiality within NG911 systems could expose information to identity
thefts or disrupt ongoing investigations; loss of integrity could disrupt response to 911 calls; and loss of
availability could prevent urgent requests from reaching a PSAP.
4 Cybersecurity is “the prevention of damage to, unauthorized use of, exploitation of, and, if needed, the restoration of
electronic information and communications systems and services (and the information contained therein) to ensure
confidentiality, integrity, and availability”, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Infrastructure Protection Plan,
Cybersecurity risks to NG911 systems,
such as those shown in Figure 3, have
severe potential impacts, including loss
of life or property because of hampered
response operations; job disruption for
affected network users; substantial
financial costs from the unauthorized
use of data and subsequent resolution;
and potential lawsuits from those
whose data is breached or whose lives
are adversely affected. To understand
the significance of different risks to the
confidentiality, integrity, or availabity
of a NG911 system, the terms threat,
consequence must be understood.
Figure 3: Potential Risks to NG911 System Components
Threats. Threats are anything that has
the potential to harm the system and
are produced by “threat actors.” There are a variety of potential actors, each with different intent and
capabilities to carry out an attack. By understanding the motivations and capabilities of those responsible
for launching attacks, system administrators can better anticipate the types of attacks they might face and
better protect data and assets that are likely targets. Threat actors who have caused real-world damage
include, but are not limited to, those in Figure 4:
Anarchist………………..Someone who rejects all forms of structure, private or public, and acts with few constraints
Cyber Criminal/Crime Ring……………………….Manager of organized crime organization with significant resources
Cyber Vandal…………………………………..Derives thrills from intrusion or destruction of property, without agenda
Data Miner……………………………..Professional data gatherer external to the company (includes cyber methods)
Government Agent/Spy ……Foreign state-sponsored spy or agent as a trusted insider, supporting idealistic goals
Government Cyberwarrior……Foreign state-sponsored attacker with significant resources to affect major disruption
Nation-state……………………………………………….A sovereign territory with significant resources to cause harm
Radical Activist………………………………………………Highly motivated, potentially destructive supporter of cause
Terrorist………………………….Person who relies on the use of violence to support personal socio-political agenda
In addition to attacks, unintentional threats can disrupt the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of
NG911 systems. Unintentional threat actors include employees, vendors, contractors, or subcontractors.
For example, one of these actors could:
• Improperly safeguard data when sending or storing (for example, not using proper encryption, sending
data to unauthorized individuals, putting weak protection on databases)
• Enter typing mistakes that result in loss of data integrity
• Accidentally make a data resource unavailable when performing maintenance or upgrade operations
• Not follow physical or cyber protection procedures
• Improperly test or maintain back-up systems and power sources
Vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are weaknesses
in a system, network, or asset that could enable an
Old Systems: Systems that are out of date or past their
undesired outcome, such as a network outage or
lifecycle that lack modern security measures
security breach. Vulnerabilities take two forms,
Shared Systems: Shared systems/databases with other
those that are vulnerable to external threats and
entities that have not employed security measures
those that are vulnerable to internal threats. One
Lack of Diversity and Redundancy: Lack of diverse routing
of the key tactics of an attacker is to gain credentials
for communications or redundancy for electric power
and access to a network, and then exploit
Lack of Security Policies: Ad hoc or non-existent security
vulnerabilities within the network as a seemingly
policies enable insiders to accidently or intentionally disrupt
“trusted entity.” Vulnerabilities can also be within
operations and/or security
a network and available to malicious threat actors
who gain access to the internal system, either
improperly (through hacking) or by misusing their current position (insider threats). These actors
typically take advantage of databases or system applications with bad encryption, poor authorization
and access control measures or policies, and interconnections or interfaces with an external network or
entity. With vast interconnection possibilities, PSAPs may suffer from vulnerabilities associated with
systems for which they have not contributed funds, hold no direct authority, or provide other resources
to support beyond network access and perhaps mutual-aid agreements—even if they share redundancies,
databases, or other resources. In addition, different vendor implementations using proprietary
technologies can lead to varying degrees of protection and interoperability, even when addressing
the same standards and system requirements. NG911 developments have focused primarily on
deployment or modernization projects, but rarely on the governance and oversight of cyber risk
management that are critical to cybersecurity.
Likelihood. Likelihood refers to the possibility that a risk scenario could occur. Determining the
likelihood of a risk depends on the level of both the threat and the vulnerability and is the probability that
a given threat type will exploit a set of vulnerabilities, resulting in the occurrence of a risk. For example,
if a system has no vulnerabilities, the likelihood of risk is low even if there is a significant threat because
the threat would have nothing to exploit. On the other hand, if the system contains a significant
vulnerability but there is no threat to exploit it, the likelihood of a risk will be equally low. A risk with
both a greater threat and greater vulnerability level is much more likely to occur than one with a low
threat and low vulnerability level.
Consequences. While the potential consequences of cybersecurity breaches depend in large part on
the type of breach, the severity of the breach is determined by its ability to impact and degrade NG911
systems and PSAP operations, or its ability to harm the citizens they serve and the public’s confidence in
911 systems. Additional consequences include loss of sensitive records, including personal information
about citizens, law enforcement data, critical infrastructure information, healthcare data, dispatch
information, and possible legal liability for parties responsible for protecting the systems. When
evaluating potential consequences, it is important for administrators to assume the worst possible
outcome. For example, a particular type of data breach could be small and insignificant, but
administrators should account for the greatest reasonable consequence if that data breach were to occur.
Because it is impossible to address every risk, it is helpful to look at which risks are more likely to occur
to make more informed decisions about where to best allocate resources to ensure the most risk reduction.
However, likelihood is only one part of the equation—the consequences of risks must also be assessed.
Risk = the likelihood of a threat exploiting a vulnerability
and the potential consequence or impact of that event
Improving NG911 Cybersecurity Posture
Given the dynamic nature of technology and the evolving cyber risk landscape, organizations should
adopt a cybersecurity framework. An effective framework enables response organizations to:
Identify new and evolving risks
Assess and prioritize risks
Develop and prioritize mitigation stategies based
on cost-benefit analysis and other factors
Evaluate the impacts of mitigation
Develop an approach to detection and effective
response and recovery procedures
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Cybersecurity Framework, which is a flexible, riskbased approach to improving the security of critical
infrastructure.5 Collaboratively developed between
government and the private sector, the framework is
Figure 5: NIST Framework Core Structure
based on industry standards and best practices and can
be used for NG911 systems. The NIST Cybersecurity
Framework is designed to complement an existing cybersecurity risk management process or to develop
a credible program if one does not exist. Figure 5 demonstrates the five core tenets of the NIST
Framework: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. More information, including informative
reference for addressing each tenet can be found in the Framework.
The most recent NIST Cybersecurity Framework and related newsletters are available at
Identifying and Assessing Risks
Regardless of the cybersecurity framework chosen, administrators will need to identify, evaluate
and prioritize risks for their organization. Figure 6 provides a sample risk assessment process.
Figure 6: Sample Risk Assessment Plan (to be followed with mitigation and response/recovery)
Mitigating Risks: Protect and Detect
While no single mitigation strategy can comprehensively address all the risk scenarios identified, the
individual evaluation of mitigation techniques may identify complementary mitigation strategies for
creation of a broad-reaching, holistic approach. In general, mitigation strategies aim to either prevent
and protect against an identified risk being exploited, or seek to ensure timely awareness of a
cybersecurity breach or occurrence. Mitigation strategies should employ safeguards that decrease the
impact of a risk, if exploited, on the organization and its ability to deliver critical services.
Table 1 describes sample mitigation strategies for NG911 cybersecurity. This list is not exhaustive and
should not replace a comprehensive requirements analysis; however, it is intended to provide a starting
point for requirements, planning, and implementation. Some elements may be addressed through
nationwide standards, industry best practices, or policy guidance, while others may be developed and
practiced by PSAP administrators.
Table 1: Sample NG911 Security Mitigation Strategies (non-comprehensive)
Ensure access privileges are used appropriately and that privilege elevations
are restricted to appropriate personnel
Determine application layer interoperability requirements and standards and
implement a process for regular review and update
Develop and implement policies on authentication and identity management
that are applied uniformly and meet public safety requirements for
performance, security, and time-sensitive mission demands
Engage in assessing capacity requirements for PSAP infrastructure and
Develop requirements for data encryption that apply to both primary and
Database Back-Up Develop guidance or policies for performing and retrieving database backups
Establish and enforce consistent information security policies and ensure
those policies are continually updated as new threats and technologies
Develop role-specific training requirements for users and administrators, to
include training on security, resiliency, and operations
Develop continuous diagnostics and mitigation capabilities or use existing
Ensure that log management and audit capabilities, policies, and technology
are strong, appropriate, and responsive
Develop and implement physical security and access control policies for
And Access Control facilities
Exploited Risks: Response and Recovery
Incident Response Teams (IRTs), incident response plans, recovery or resiliency plans, and continuity
of operations plans are useful in cybersecurity incident response. PSAP administrators may
consider establishing a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) or reach an agreement
with US-CERT to assist in carrying out cybersecurity planning. US-CERT is a CSIRT run by the DHS
National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).6 A CSIRT serves as a
centralized location to report and analyze security issues within an organization. A CSIRT may also
recommend potential solutions to the threats and publicize known threats, vulnerabilities, and solutions
generally or to a specific information-sharing community. The CSIRT could also work with hardware
and software vendors to obtain information about vulnerabilities and potential solutions.
Leveraging federal resources, such as US-CERT, can aid in the protection of the NG911 system and its
data. In addition, coordinating response and recovery efforts with the Statewide Interoperability
Coordinator (SWIC), State Single Points of Contact (SPOC), and other PSAP administrators can
increase cybersecurity posture. Sample response and recovery actions are shown in Figure 2.
Table 2: Sample NG911 Response and Recovery Actions (non-comprehensive)
• Incident Response Plan. Develop incident response plans, policies, and capabilities for
the networks, personnel and user equipment that prevent expansion of the event, mitigate
its effects, and eradicate the incident
• Incident Response Team. Establish an incident response team with or utilize existing
capabilities like US-CERT to ensure response activities are coordinated with appropriate
• Contain Cybersecurity Event. Execute response processes and procedures, preventing
expansion of the event, mitigate its effects, and eradicate the incident
• Deploy IRT. Coordinate with internal and external stakeholders, as appropriate, including
external support from law enforcement agencies and response centers, such as US-CERT
• Recovery Plan. Develop and implement the appropriate activities to maintain plans for
resilience and to restore any capabilities or services that were impaired due to a
• Continuity Planning 7. Establishing and maintaining redundancy is a key strategy that
promotes network reliability, resiliency, and continuity of service
• Coordination. Restoration activities are coordinated with internal and external parties,
such as coordinating centers, internet service providers, owners of attacking systems,
victims, response partners, and vendors
• Process Improvements. Recovery planning processes and strategies are improved by
incorporating lessons learned into future activities. Response personnel should be trained
on the latest security, resiliency, continuity and operational practices and maintain inservice training as new technology and methods are made available
For continuity recommendations, see FEMA’s Continuity Guidance Circular (CGC) 1 and 2 available at
Actions for Improving NG911 Cybersecurity
This document provides an overview of the cyber risks that will be faced by NG911 systems. It is
intended to serve only as an informational tool for system administrators to better understand the full
scope and range of potential risks, as well as recommend mitigations to these risks. The following actions
are provided for system administrators intending to improve their NG911 systems:
Adopt a “security first” perspective. Cybersecurity has become an integral part of mission
function and operations for NG911 systems. Working with others within the NG911 community,
government, industry, and academia to establish consistent standards, policies, procedures,
interoperability and implementation guidance for NG911 deployments is crucial.
Leverage historically-successful cybersecurity strategies. Researching available references and
resources, as well as gathering experiences from other NG911 community members, is important
to constructing the ideal solution set for each NG911 system’s unique circumstances.
Establish a CSIRT or reach an agreement with US-CERT to assist in carrying out
cybersecurity planning. A CSIRT serves as a centralized location to report, analyze, and respond
to security issues within an organization. Tracking developments in the cybersecurity field and
providing prioritized implementation of cybersecurity solutions are also CSIRT activities.
Establish a cybersecurity risk framework. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is highly
recommended as a flexible, risk-based approach to improving the security of critical infrastructure.
Identify, evaluate, and prioritize risks using a community-based risk assessment process.
This process should account for threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences associated with system
assets. To identify and assess vulnerabilities in their own systems, PSAP administrators should
work closely with all partners with whom they interconnect, such as service providers, neighboring
jurisdictions, and other agencies in order to identify the full architecture of their system and assess
it for physical and network vulnerabilities. This assessment should also include a review of their
current processes and standard operating procedures against available government and industry
cybersecurity best practices and standards.
Develop mitigations. An examination of the likelihood and consequences of attacks should help
to prioritize and inform mitigation strategies. Using both prevention and detection techniques,
administrators should strive to negate or decrease the impact of an attack. Researching available
mitigation techniques and employing them in a prioritized fashion will produce a comprehensive
Solidify Response and Recovery actions. Establishing a CSIRT and developing incident
response plans, policies, and capabilities for the networks, personnel, and user equipment can
prevent expansion of the event, mitigate its effects, and eradicate the incident. These efforts should
be supported by regular training and exercises and coordination with external parties so that all
participants are aware and capable of their role during and after an event.
Once risks are identified and protection mitigations are in place, the NG911 community has an
opportunity to focus on detection and advance planning. Instead of focusing on the individual
cybersecurity events and data recovery, an effective framework uses data analytics in PSAPs, joint field
offices, and emergency operations centers to accelerate and automate analysis, and to shift from a posture
of “what just happened, and how do we fix it?” to “what is going to happen, and how can we prevent
it?” The NG911 community should remain in front of potential cyber events through its ability to feed
relevant event data to emergency operation centers, fusion centers, and cyber centers.
Table 3 provides a list of resources to assist NG911 administrators improving the cybersecurity posture
of their systems.
Table 3: NG911 Resources
Office of Emergency
National Cybersecurity and
Integration Center (NCCIC)
Legal and Regulatory
Framework for NG911
Task Force on Optimal
Cybersecurity Approach for
Standards (including i3 and
National Institute of
Description and Link
DHS offers a collection of programs and initiatives that can be applied to reduce NG911 cyber risks.
Many of these efforts support approved missions that cover federal, state, and local users, as well
as public and private critical infrastructure entities.
NCCIC is a 24/7 cyber monitoring, incident response, and management center. Organizations can
leverage NCCIC’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) for cybersecurity
information and assistance.
An overview on the development and creation of a NG911 network that provides specific citations from
the FCC on statutory requirements and funding possibilities.
CSRIC’s mission is to provide recommendations to the FCC to ensure, among other things, optimal
security and reliability of communications systems, including telecommunications, media, and public
safety. Guidance includes:
• Transition to Next Generation 9-1-1.
• Cybersecurity Risk Management and Best Practices.
The TFOPA is a federal advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to
provide recommendations to the FCC regarding actions that PSAPs can take to optimize their
security, operations, and funding as they migrate to NG911.
911.gov is a comprehensive resource for all things related to NG911. The website includes a
resource center with an information clearinghouse, a Technical Assistance Center, and a 911 profile
database for tracking the progress of 911 authorities around the Nation in enhancing their systems
and deploying NG911 capabilities. www.911.gov
NENA’s website contains a complete archive of all its 911 standards, including those related to
NG911, such as NG-SEC standard (NENA 75-001).
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, and cost-effective approach
that can help NG911 system administrators manage cybersecurity-related risk.
NIST’s 800 and 1800 series provides targeted cybersecurity guidance and are strongly encouraged to
be incorporated into cybersecurity planning.
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