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Exploit that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911 reveals grave cybersecurity threat, say experts

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We reported back in October on an iOS exploit that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911 without user intervention. It was said then that the volume of calls meant one 911 center was in ‘immediate danger’ of losing service, while two other centers had been at risk – but a full investigation has now concluded that the incident was much more serious than it appeared at the time.

It was initially thought that a few hundred calls were generated in a short time, but investigators now believe that one tweeted link that activated the exploit was clicked on 117,502 times, each click triggering a 911 call. The WSJ reports that law-enforcement officials and 911 experts fear that a targeted attack using the same technique could prove devastating …



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Teenager plays havoc with multiple 911 call centers trying to collect Apple bug bounty

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An Arizona teenager caused havoc in multiple 911 cell centers last week after creating a proof of concept of an iOS exploit that caused iPhones to dial 911. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said that one police department was ‘in immediate danger of losing service’ to its 911 center, and two other call centers were also at risk …



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Patent application could see the Apple Watch calling 911 when it detects a heart-attack

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A patent application describes how the Apple Watch and iPhone could work together to detect medical emergencies like a heart attack, and automatically call 911.

While the patent wording doesn’t specifically name either the Apple Watch or iPhone, the meaning of one electronic device cooperating with another one seems pretty clear.

An occurrence of one or more “care events” is detected by an electronic device monitoring environmental data and/or user data from one or more sensors. The electronic device transmits one or more alerts regarding the detected occurrence to at least one other electronic device. In some cases, the electronic device may cooperate with at least one other electronic device in monitoring, detecting, and/or transmitting.

Apple says that the setup could detect a range of emergencies, and take appropriate action depending on the severity – ranging from sending an email to a family member at the low end to calling 911 in the most urgent of cases …



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Feature Request: Automatically activate emergency features on making a 911 call

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We reported recently on an Apple patent application for a ‘panic mode‘ on an iPhone, where using a specific finger on the Touch ID sensor could do anything from locking down the phone to calling 911 and starting audio and video recording.

There are pros & cons to the idea, of course, with one 911 operator saying that a similar Blackberry function has resulted in “thousands and thousands” of false emergency calls, each of which have to be treated as real calls for help until demonstrated otherwise.

But if we waited until someone manually dialled 911, it seems to me that there’s merit in some of the other ideas … 

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Crowdsourced app gets CPR volunteers to cardiac arrest victims fast

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When someone’s heart stops, there are just minutes to save them from brain damage or death; by the time medics arrive, it can be too late. This is the problem former San Ramon Valley Fire Department chief Richard Price set out to solve with the crowdsourced iOS app, PulsePoint.

Price came up with the idea for the app after a tragedy that happened feet from where he was sitting, reports Re/code.

He was off-duty at a local deli when he heard sirens. Emergency vehicles pulled up and he rushed outside to see what was going on. A man in a shop next door had collapsed and emergency responders were unable to revive him.

“He was on the other side of the wall, I couldn’t see him,” Price says. “He lay there unconscious with no one doing CPR. I had a (automated defibrillator) nearby in my vehicle.”



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The four largest carriers now support texting 911, but most emergency call centers don’t

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When the FCC set a voluntary deadline of yesterday for putting in place technology to allow people to text 911, all four of the main national carriers complied. But since most emergency call centres aren’t yet equipped to receive texts, don’t expect to be using it any time soon.

The FCC said that the ability to text 911 could be a life-saver for those with hearing or speech impairments, as well as in situations where it might be dangerous to make a phone call – while a crime is in progress and the perpetrator within earshot, for example.

But the wireless trade association, the CTIA, warned that even where 911 texting is supported, it’s still impossible to guarantee immediate delivery of texts. We’ve all experienced examples of texts that arrive the next day, so the advice remains to make a voice call wherever possible.

The FCC has uploaded a list of emergency call centres accepting 911 texts. If you attempt to text 911 in an area where the service is not supported, you’ll get a text bounce-back. Needless to say, please do not test the service.