Tennessee Emergency Communications Board Selects MCP for Cybersecurity Project
Thursday, July 30, 2020 | Comments

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced a partnership with Mission Critical Partners (MCP) on a new project focused on assessing the cybersecurity status of the state’s 142 public safety answering points (PSAPs). When completed, the cybersecurity assessment will provide the PSAPs with an understanding of their baseline status and increased awareness of vulnerabilities.

The project will generate greater visibility into Tennessee’s 911 infrastructure, which is growing in complexity and sophistication as the state transitions to next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1), a broadband, Internet Protocol (IP)-based system that enables the transmission of real-time text, images, video and voice calls. Tennessee is a leader in implementing NG 9-1-1 technology with a nationally recognized, redundant Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet) known as NetTN. This network, which has been operating for seven years, processes more than 20 million calls annually and helps to keep Tennessee’s citizens and visitors safe.

"Building a strong partnership like the one between the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board and Mission Critical Partners is crucial to serving Tennesseans and maintaining Tennessee's role as a national leader when it comes to emergency response," said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda. "This partnership will help better protect Tennesseans and Tennessee's public-safety answering points from cybersecurity threats that may occur."

In conjunction with the cybersecurity program, the TECB is transitioning its PSAPs from an Internet Protocol (IP)-based selective-routing (IPSR) solution to an ESInet that leverages Next Generation Core Services (NGCS). NGCS are the fundamental elements that enable 9-1-1 calls to be processed in a NG 9-1-1 environment. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) i3-compliant solution will provide enhanced technology services outlined in the TECB’s NG911 Strategic Plan. The board projects that all Tennessee PSAPs will be offering NG 9-1-1 service in 2021.

Because IP-based networks inherently are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, the cybersecurity initiative being undertaken by the TECB and MCP takes on even greater importance as the state’s PSAPs transition to NG 9-1-1, according to Curtis Sutton, TECB’s executive director.

“Across the country, public-safety leaders increasingly are viewing cybersecurity as a priority, recognizing that cybercriminals are targeting 9-1-1 operations because of their mission-critical nature,” Sutton said. “The TECB is committed to providing excellent customer service to Tennessee’s 9-1-1 community. Understanding the vulnerabilities of our 9-1-1 network is a critical step toward implementing a proactive cybersecurity risk-prevention program in the state.”

The project is funded in part by the 911 Grant Program jointly provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce in 2019. The program, which authorized $109 million in grant funding to 34 states and two tribal nations, is designed to support state and local efforts to deliver modernized 9-1-1 services. Any Tennessee PSAP opting into the statewide cybersecurity project will receive: • An assessment of the PSAP’s CAD system and call-processing networks, • An assessment of the PSAP’s physical security, and • A report that identifies resolvable cybersecurity vulnerabilities and recommendations so that plans may be developed to address deficiencies.

“We are honored to partner with the TECB in this effort, and we applaud their vision to be confident in the security surrounding the state’s 911 infrastructure,” said Kevin Murray, MCP’s chairman, chief executive officer and cofounder. “Taking this proactive approach will help them safeguard against threats that could disable them or interrupt their ability to serve Tennessee’s citizens and visitors and will ultimately help to improve emergency response.”

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