UH Researchers Work On Project To Protect 911 From Hackers

With the help of a federal grant, computer scientists from the University of Houston are developing software that aims to shield the next generation of 911 from cyber attacks.

Professors Omprakash Gnawali and Larry Shi work at their lab in the University of Houston.
Professors Omprakash Gnawali (left) and Larry Shi (right) work at their lab in the University of Houston. (Photo: Al Ortiz)

911 is a critical resource in America.

Making it inaccessible to the public by overwhelming it with coordinated simultaneous calls could be the goal of hackers one day.

"It's very easy from the hacker perspective to actually start such kind of attacks. It doesn't require very sophisticated tools," says Professor Larry Shi.

He leads a University of Houston research group that's developing protection methods for 911.

The Department of Homeland Security is financing this research with a $2.6 million grant.

Shi's goal is to come up with software and technology standards that will shield 911 from cyber attacks.

Along with Shi, Professor Omprakash Gnawali is the project's principal researcher.

He explains the impact of compromising 911 in a big city.

"A lot of citizens would be affected. In a sense, they would not be able to get the help in an emergency when they really need it and this could really impact not just Houston, but any other large city in the United States," stresses Gnawali.

Shi and his team will also work with ex-hackers who will identify weaknesses.

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Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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