MCSO arrests suspect after disruption into 911 system for entire Phoenix area

Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 01:57:11-04

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says an 18-year-old was arrested after a cyber attack affecting 911 lines around the Valley.

The Surprise Police Department alerted MCSO it received more than 100 hang-up 911 calls on Tuesday night. The calls all came within a matter of minutes and Surprise was at risk of losing service to its emergency dispatch switchboard, according to court documents. 

Peoria police and MCSO also received a large number of calls that could have shut down emergency service switches to the entire community.

Police agencies in California and Texas were also affected. 

The calls were believed to be coming from smartphones and tablets and originated from a Twitter link that repeatedly dialed 911 and wouldn't let the callers hang up.

MCSO Cyber Crimes investigators located a Twitter account with 12,000 followers urging people to click the link. The account out of San Francisco was shut down and linked to a page named "Meet Desai."

Detectives received information about the page from the site's host and worked with the company to get the page shut down to stop the potential threat of having 911 systems compromised if enough people clicked on the link, according to court paperwork.

Officials located the man behind the account, Meetkumar Hiteshbhai Desai, and questioned him late Wednesday night. He admitted to the 911 system attack and said he meant for it to be funny and not harmful, MCSO says.

He says the link wasn't meant to be sent to the public and that he must have sent the wrong link -- the one to the 911 hack.

He also reportedly worked on other programs, bugs and viruses, and claimed Apple paid him for information on programming.

Desai was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail on three felony counts of computer tampering.