Teenager Arrested for iPhone Hack That Threatened 911 Emergency Systems

Teenager Arrested for iPhone Hack That Threatened 911 Emergency Systems
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Authorities have arrested an 18-year-old hacker for disseminating code last Tuesday that resulted in scores of hang-up calls made to 911 emergency systems in Arizona, California, and Texas in a matter of minutes.

Meetkumar Hiteshbhai Desai has been taken into custody on three felony counts of Computer Tampering for pushing out the 911-dialing code. Authorities were able to locate the teenage Arizona resident through a link on Twitter that caused people’s iPhones to dial 911 repeatedly and persistently. Investigators moved to quickly shut the link down and discovered that it was registered under the name “Meet Desai.”

According to a statement by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, once in custody, Desai allegedly told the Sheriff’s detectives that he was interested in discovering iOS bugs that he could manipulate and report to Apple in exchange for cash remuneration under the company’s bug bounty program. He also claimed that he had originally intended to propagate a funny and annoying, yet ultimately benign bug that would add pop-ups, open email, activate the dialing feature on iPhones, and cause them to reboot.

Instead, according to the same press release, Desai admitted that he may have unintentionally released a malicious form of the bug that directed calls to 911.

Proceeding similarly to a distributed denial-of-service attack, the telephony denial-of-service attack could have compromised emergency 911 infrastructure in parts of Arizona and other states by directing an overwhelming barrage of bogus calls at call centers. Because most 911 centers already operate at near capacity under normal circumstances, even a slight uptick in call volumes can prove unmanageable. A typical 911 call center uses just three to five circuits to process all of its incoming calls and are very easy to overwhelm.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers found that just 200,000 infected phones distributed throughout the nation could form a botnet powerful enough to significantly disrupt 911 services across America.

Featured Photo: Leszek Kobusinski / Shutterstock.com
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