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Cyberattack paralyzes EMT dispatch in Quebec

Dispatchers resort to manual processing, affecting care prioritization.

Cybercrime - February 06, 2024

On January 24, 2024, a cyberattack took out Quebec City’s EMT dispatch services. The latter also covers Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord, two other administrative regions in Quebec. The incident sharply disrupted ambulance coms and GPS, which hindered the work of 911 dispatch.

A hacker broke down the computer system and is demanding a ransom; the system has been paralyzed for 24 hours now,” stated the chairman of the paramedical workers’ association, Frédéric Maheux, on January 25.

Dispatchers had to use their own mobile phones and radio communications to stay in touch with EMTs. Suddenly, without the prior triage enabled by the digital dispatching system, all requests were equal priority. “We are back to using the old methods, taking notes and using roadmaps, which can lengthen the time it takes to get to patients,” explains Frédéric Maheux.

Quebec city hall categorically refused to pay the ransom demanded by the cybercriminal. In order to avoid putting their patients’ health at risk, the city requisitioned all ambulances and available EMTs, and gave their employees overtime. Dispatchers managed to process all requests as if they were top priority.

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