back to article Cisco's emergency caller can send first responders to the wrong location

Cisco has warned that its Emergency Responder product can send emergency services to the wrong location under some circumstances. The networking giant promotes Emergency Responder as an enhancement to its Unified Communications Manager as it "assures that Cisco Unified Communications Manager will send emergency calls to the …

  1. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    FAIL

    "This can result in emergency dispatchers responding to the wrong address, building, or location."

    It's not as if people have lost their lives because of similar screw-ups, is it?

    1. SVD_NL Silver badge

      This is so scary. Who thought it would be a good idea to send a default location instead of location unknown in those circumstances???

      Don't mess with emergency services, and if you're going to release a product (add-on) specifically for communicating with emergency services, you better make sure every single release is flawless.

      You mention police, but what about medical emergencies? There is generally going to be fewer situations where the caller is unable to give an accurate description of the location, but if people trust the system without verifying, you're going to run into big problems...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Here in the Great White North a challenger to the great monopoly Telco decided to roll out VOIP phones which supported caller id for emergency services.

        Unfortunately the location they reported was that of the data center hosting the VoIP network gear - generally in a different city, and in one fatal case, a different province

        1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Unfortunately the location they reported was that of the data center hosting the VoIP network gear

          Some time back I encountered the same issue in the UK after the company relocated its head office and we all had ISDN phone links to there.

          Having a need to call the police I was quite surprised to find the force I got was hundreds of miles from where they were needed. But more surprised they had no means to transfer me to my local force and the emergency service operator didn't know how to get a call to someone other than the local-to-them force.

          1. Anne Hunny Mouse

            No sure if it possible with ISDN to redirect 999 etc to the correct centre.

            We have had to work with SIP providers to ensure they direct the 989 etc calls to the correct emergency centre.

            (Also 101 and 111)

      2. xyz Silver badge

        >This is so scary. Who thought it would be a good idea to send a default location instead of location unknown in those circumstances???

        Everyone it seems... I'm in Madrid according to world + corporate dog (Google, MS and assorted other ferals) and I've never been near the place. Starlink's ground station is in Madrid, so search results are all tailored for Madrid. Doesn't help that I might be calling from El Molar (Tarragona) and guess what's a suburb of Madrid, yup El Molar. My mate ended up with car insurance for El Molar Madrid because of that.

        SkyDSLs ground station is in Germany so I couldn't access my banking app as it flashed up "FRAUD!" everytime I went on it.

        If you don't have an old fashioned fixed line you're at the mercy of the "logic" of unknown programmers.

  2. JWLong

    911 is a joke

    And a bad one at that......

    1. ChoHag Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 911 is a joke

      0118 999 88199 9119 725 3

      Well, that's easy to remember!

      1. Strong as Taishan Mountains

        Re: 911 is a joke

        ...what was it again?

        I'll just send an email.

      2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: 911 is a joke

        Renholm industries to the rescue.

  3. bemusedHorseman

    ...See, this is why rural zip codes in my state are required by law to still have a traditional landline (whether it's POTS or VOIP doesn't matter, it just has to be "a phone number physically tied to a street address"), in order to still get emergency services.

    1. SVD_NL Silver badge

      How does that work? If you're traveling through a rural area and call on your mobile phone you're just shit out of luck?

      I feel like there should be a bit more nuance to that requirement.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Calling by mobile will always be different as it will reference the active cell tower. What @bemusedHorseman is talking about is fixed addresses where Cisco may be in the loop and to borrow from the article there may be a sub-office for some national agency next door to him but Cisco only provide the Head Office details in the centre of Manhattan.

      2. bemusedHorseman
        Boffin

        Yes XOR no. Basically, it comes down to the fact that cellular triangulation requires a certain number of towers, the same way that GPS only works if you have line of sight to at least four satellites, increasing in precision with more of them. When you call 911, the system looks up the source phone number to see if it's a landline; if it is, the street address is right there and it's assumed that you're calling from that address, making it easier to dispatch to you. If it's a cell number... it has to check the signal-distance to multiple nearby towers, but in a rural area, you might only have one. "The mobile phone with number 123-555-1234 is in a 1.612 kilometer radius of Tower WZZZ, and in range of no other towers" isn't usable at all, while "The landline with number 456-555-7890 is registered to 123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 90210" is actionable.

        ........of course, in theory this is the exact reason Emergency Services' scripts now begin with "what is your location" and then asks what the emergency is, but if all you were able to do was dial before Something Terrible Happened, all 911 has available is whether or not the number you're calling from is tied to a physical address, or if you're in an urban enough area for the required number of towers to geolocate you.

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
      Flame

      Fire Numbers

      When we lived out in the country (50 years ago), pre-911 dispatch, we and our neighbors all had "fire numbers." These numbers were assigned by the fire department, and were completely independent of our postal box numbers ("Route 2, Box 423"). Peoples's postal boxes were supported by a vertical pole embedded into the ground. Each of these poles had a 1" x 6" x 16" board attached halfway up. Black metal plates, each plate with a white, retro-reflective digit, were attached to the plank to indicate that house's fire number.

      The one time we had to call the fire department (neighbor's car on fire, stalled in front of our house), my mum had me run out and look at our post box to check our fire number, 'cause none of us remembered what it was.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So they goofed

    Unfortunate, but in a project with this level of complexity, I can understand.

    The important thing is that they have corrected the goof, and published the problem without pressure from some hacker threatening to go public.

    Yes, I know, that's normal you say. Sure. But "normal" these days, at the corporate level, doesn't have the same meaning any more . . .

    So, let's patch and move on.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So they goofed

      "published the problem without pressure from some hacker threatening to go public."

      How do you know there wasn't

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $dayjob is very excited about their project to replace desk phones with Teams calling. That's fine for normal calls, but I really don't want to rely on an add on location service in an emergency, especially if my laptop is not at its usual location.

    Granted, the safety briefing at one of our German plants included a note that in the event of fire, we shouldn't call 112 (contacts the nearest municipal fire service) but should instead contact the plant's fire department. The safety slide had something like a 10 digit phone number for the plant fire service.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Not...0118 999 88199 9119 725 3...by any chance, was it?

      Regarding Teams calling...I (foolishly) attempted to call one of our clients (who is also a Teams user - should be simple, right?), and discovered that it is not possible...my Teams install was not licensed for that. When I messaged our IT people, they told me I needed X levels of approval for that feature, which turned out to be connection to the PSTN (something entirely different). So, rather than navigate the maze of Teams options and licenses, I set up a Teams meeting...just me and him, sent him an invite, and we had our conversation. A bit roundabout, but at least we could talk. No phones on the desks at my place of work either, but since I'm mostly WFH anyway, it makes little difference.

    2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Sad thing is teams actually costs more in monetary terms than a normal landline and as this case shows, it might cost you your life as well.

    3. Anne Hunny Mouse

      I would assume that Teams has the ability to translate numbers, so a short number would be converted to the long number.

      It's normally a common feature in PBXs but then again Microsoft always assumed that everyone would just use the E.164 number of a device.

  6. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Obviously CISCo needs to talk to Google and Microsoft about their AI genius programs.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like