Over the weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian news media began reporting that a computer virus had infected the computer-aided dispatch system for the New South Wales (NSW) Ambulance Service, requiring the Service to shut down the system down, which in turn forced the Service staff to revert to manual operations for emergency calls.
The Herald is now reporting that the Ambulance Service was able to return to full operations by late Sunday night. The Herald story goes on to say that an unnamed source claims the infection likely came from a USB device that was plugged into a PC somewhere on the Ambulance Service internal network. USB drives can be a major source of security problems, as I have written about many times in the past (see here and here, for instance).
The aforementioned Australian article also states that there is a concern that the VisiCAD dispatch system, which is used by the NSW Ambulance Service and many others around the world, may have been deliberately targeted, although a more "run-of-the-mill" Windows computer virus is more likely the cause.
The NSW government promises a full inquiry into the incident.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.