Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

Washington: A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials said.

“On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline was rendered unavailable as a result of a cybersecurity incident,” Danielle Bennett, a spokeswoman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said in an email.

The attack occurred on the network for Intrado, the company that provides telecommunications services for the helpline. The agency did not disclose details about who it believes launched the attack or what kind of cyberattack occurred. Intrado is working with a third-party assessor to investigate the incident and law enforcement agencies have been notified of the breach, SAMHSA said.

The national 988 phone number, which can be reached by text, chat or voice calling, has become a lifeline for millions of Americans seeking help during a mental crisis, with millions of calls pouring in during the first six months since its launch in July. The system is designed to work similarly to 911 — it’s a universal, easy-to-remember number that people can call in an emergency to reach a human who is working around the clock in a local call center.

Image courtesy of (Image: SAMHSA)

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