June 12, 2021

The failure of emergency numbers caused by a software “bug”, according to Orange’s internal investigation

Orange’s internal investigation confirms that« un bug » software was at the origin of the national breakdown of emergency numbers that occurred in France on June 2, the operator announced on Friday June 11.

SAMU, firefighters, police… This failure of the Orange operator’s network had massively disrupted access to emergency numbers, and many emergency services were difficult to reach across France. Without being able to contact the numbers 15, 17, 18 or 112 quickly, five people are believed to have died, according to the authorities. Judicial inquiries are open.

According to the findings of the investigation, 11,800 calls, or 11% of the total emergency calls, were not routed during the outage, between 4:45 p.m. and midnight. “This malfunction is the consequence of a bug in the software of “calls servers” », that is, the technical equipment that manages the interconnection between the IP network and the old analog network, the company said in a statement.

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A modernization operation at the origin of the failure

This malfunction causes “Following an operation to modernize and increase the capacity of the network, which began in early May, to respond to the increase in traffic”, also announced the former France Telecom, historically responsible for redirecting emergency calls. Orange adds that the software failure is now identified by the supplier of the equipment concerned and “That a fix has been addressed”.

The French operator regrets that “Despite the mobilization of technical teams, the delay in activating the managerial crisis unit” has trained “Late communication to all stakeholders. “

Orange’s investigation is separate from the audit “Security and integrity control” the Orange network and services requested by the government, and steered by the National Information Systems Security Agency (Anssi); its conclusions are expected within two months.

Guillaume Poupard, the general manager of Anssi, had however already announced Thursday that a technical failure, and not a cyberattack, was at the origin of the failure of emergency numbers. The trail of a cyberattack was “Discarded from June 2”, recalled Friday Orange.

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Stéphane Richard expected at the Assembly

The blackout had provoked strong political reactions, and renewed the debate on the system of emergency numbers, which some players want to merge, without knowing whether such a merger would have really made it possible to resolve the outage more quickly. The authorities had set up alternative ten-digit numbers to reach the emergency services, numbers that had to be found on the Internet and on social networks.

The incident, described as worrying by President Emmanuel Macron, had put under pressure the telephone operator and its CEO, Stéphane Richard, who had apologized after a summons to the interior ministry on Thursday, June 3.

The CEO of Orange must also be heard on Wednesday by the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly. “We want to understand what may have happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again”, underlines to Agence France-Presse (AFP) the deputy LRM Roland Lescure, who chairs this commission.

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“The State has very clear specifications vis-à-vis Orange. Obviously, it was not respected ”, said this parliamentarian on Franceinfo. “We deplore the victims who are likely to have been caused by this serious incident”, had also said last Friday the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, specifying that he was speaking “Subject of course to what the inquiries will say, in particular the judicial inquiries which are opened”.

A unit responsible for malfunctions

To date, five suspicious deaths have been observed in Morbihan, Haute-Saône, Vendée, Reunion Island, and Bouches-du-Rhône. Among the recommendations of the Orange survey is the objective of “Reduce from two hours to a maximum of thirty minutes” the timeframe for triggering a crisis unit, in the event of a disruption affecting calls to emergency services or even the strengthening of “End-to-end supervision” vital services and emergency numbers.

“As president of the GSMA [l’association internationale des opérateurs télécoms], Stéphane Richard will propose to set up, at the global level, the creation of a unit responsible for listing and analyzing sensitive network malfunctions in order to share feedback between operators ”, added the French group.

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Le Monde with AFP and Reuters