Police in Arizona have arrested a teenager over a cyberattack that clogged up 911 lines.
But the 18-year-old suspect, Meetkumar Hiteshbhai Desai, claims it was a “non-harmful” joke that went spectacularly wrong.
Desai encouraged his 12,000 Twitter followers to click on a link that forced their smartphones to automatically dial the emergency number on Tuesday night, police said. The callers were unable to hang up.
More than 100 hoax calls flooded Surprise Police Department’s 911 service in just a few minutes.
More calls disrupted the emergency systems of other Phoenix metro area agencies, including Peoria Police Department and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and also in California and Texas.
“[The cyberattack] had the potential danger of losing service throughout Maricopa County,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said via a statement.
Investigators traced the Twitter link via a deactivated account to a web page registered to someone called “Meet Desai.” They identified Desai as possibly being behind the attack and took him into custody late Wednesday.
During questioning, he reportedly told detectives he was interested in white hat hacking and that an online friend had “provided him with a bug that they thought they should look into and tweak.”
Desai confessed to manipulating the bug and pushing it out via the Twitter link. But he claimed he only intended to make people’s devices freeze up and that he sent the 911 part of the instruction out by mistake.
“Meet claims that his intention was to make a non-harmful, but annoying bug that he believed was ‘funny,’” the Sheriff’s Office statement said. Police booked Desai into 4th Avenue Jail on three felony counts of computer tampering.