Emergency services upgrade to tougher Samsung smartphones
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Emergency services upgrade to tougher Samsung smartphones

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The British government have struck a £210 million deal with South Korean technology giant, Samsung, to arm its emergency services with custom toughened smartphones.

Britain’s police, paramedics and fire crews will be supplied with Samsung smartphones to carry out their jobs more easily and efficiently. For £210 million, Samsung will provide the services with 250,000 smartphones on a three-year deal. These devices are said to be water-resistant and will be connected to 4G internet.

The phones will be slightly modified to ensure our emergency officers can carry out their jobs as efficiently as possible. One of the features is a special “push to talk” button that will allow the user to communicate instantly, rather than having to dial a phone number and wait for it to be picked up.

The new deal has been hailed as the first of its kind; connecting our emergency services to the internet for the first time. The Telegraph, who reported the news of the deal, noted that:

  • Police will be able to feed live videos back to headquarters, recording any interactions with suspects.
  • Paramedics will be able to gain access to patient records for emergency treatment to be carried out. When faced with an incoherent or unconscious patient, paramedics could check for allergies and vulnerabilities.
  • Fire crews will be able to download building blueprints and other necessary information before they tackle a blaze. With blueprints, they can find the fastest way to get into the building, where the fire might likely spread to and other vital information like locations of gas pipes.

The move is part of the ongoing £1.2 billion investment in the Emergency Services Network. The new communication grid will replace the Airwave radio network based on EE’s mobile network.

A Home Office spokesman praised the deal:

“Using a single ESN 4G device is more effective, efficient and less costly than using a combination of the existing Airwave devices and multiple commercial networks and standard 4G devices.”

This is wonderful news, but of course, the change comes with risks that the ministers may not have fully addressed: cyber threats.

As we all know, anything connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking. Dedicated researchers have found that your Wifi can be hacked; your printer can be hacked; and even your cars can be hacked.

Mobiles phones all connected to the same system? We can say with virtual certainty that it can be hacked. You may say: “who would want to hack our emergency services?” Well, the answer to that is there are many types of person who would do such a thing… Some of them just want to watch the world burn, others would do such a thing for the chance to extort the emergency services to ransom for a lot of money.

If these internet-connected smartphones can access patient records, then its possible for hackers as well; and the same goes with building blueprints, streaming videos etc… Samsung and the government need to recognise the cyber risk these smartphones will carry and the potential for hackers to carve connections open (and therefore services) and have the ability to plunder whatever personal information they desire.

We can only hope that the £210 million deal includes up-to-date and robust cyber protection technology to prevent and stop hackers from taking over devices. While this is a great idea and we are not trying to take away from the fact it could be essential to saving lives, we just hope that enough forethought has been put into protecting the system.

We sincerely hope we do not have to blog about the fallout of something going horrendously wrong with the new system once its operational in the not-so-distant future…

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