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FBI investigating phone system attacks against hospitals, others

April 5, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and National White Collar Crime Center are investigating ongoing attacks against telephone systems operated by public sector entities, including some hospitals. The telephony denial-of-service attacks, which are part of an extortion scheme, start with a phone call to an organization from an individual claiming to represent a collections company for payday loans. The caller usually has a strong accent and asks to speak with a current or former employee concerning an outstanding debt. Failing to get payment from an individual or organization, the perpetrator inundates the targeted telephone network with a continuous stream of calls for an unspecified but lengthy period of time, which can prevent incoming and outgoing calls from being completed. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials has published a checklist to help organizations plan for and respond to such attacks, which should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov. Because the attacks have targeted numerous hospitals and public health entities, the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security also have become involved in the federal response.