Local News


Cause of 911 system crash revealed

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2017-02-08 17:43:10-05

In a story you're seeing first on Action News, Contact 13 has the answers we've been waiting for about last week's 911 system crash. 

Chief Investigator Darcy Spears found out why Las Vegas lost its lifeline for a six-hour block of time last Tuesday when Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's system went down.

It's almost hard to believe, but it might have been as simple as a cell phone plugged into a computer with a USB cable. 

Whether it was a phone or some other device, that's what LVMPD says caused the crash, exposing a vulnerability they didn't know existed.

The fact that our community's lifeline could be compromised by something so simple is difficult to understand. 

LVMPD confirms someone plugged something in to the 911 network that caused it to crash. Could've been a cell phone, digital recorder, even a Kindle or Nook plugged in through a USB port.

They're not calling it a security breach. It wasn't a hardware or software failure. It was caused by someone inside the building that houses the 911 call center.

From individual computers to server rooms full of equipment, there are about 130 access points to the 911 system. 

LVMPD says they won't be able to isolate which one was associated with the crash.    

Employees and outside vendors, like maintenance and electricians, can access the system. 

RELATED: Interactive timeline of 911 help on hold stories

Though LVMPD believes whoever caused the crash didn't do it on purpose, they admit it's a tough lesson learned to beef up security and close access points. 

One of the things they're now doing is placing server room hardware in locked cabinets, which they note will make maintenance and making changes more difficult.

It might seem crazy that our 911 system had this level of exposure, but LVMPD says they're like most other government agencies in the way the radio and IT systems are set up. 

Now, they're taking security clearance to a higher level.

They also say this wake-up call will cause them to look at all radio and IT networks in LVMPD and other agencies to improve checks and balances.

Contact 13 learned this type of crash did happen one other time with a 911 system in San Diego.

911 there is administered by the same vendor as our system. They could have warned LVMPD in advance about that possibility, which may have allowed police to put protocols in place to prevent the crash from happening here. 

In San Diego, someone plugged in an external login recorder to capture calls, not knowing that it could cause a crash. 

That system was not live so there was no community impact.