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Man arrested after hack nearly caused Phoenix-area 911 system crash

Meetkumar Hiteshbhai Desai (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX — A man accused of creating a hack that nearly crashed 911 systems in the Phoenix area this week is in custody, authorities said.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said Meetkumar Hiteshbhai Desai was charged after several Phoenix-area agencies — including Surprise police, Peoria police and MCSO — received a flood of hang-up 911 calls late Tuesday night. All three systems nearly crashed.

The calls also targeted emergency communications in California and Texas.

Desai claimed the calls were an accident and were a prank gone awry.

The sheriff’s office said a Twitter account posted a link that, when clicked on, caused the devices to call 911 over and over and not allow the user to hang up. A majority of the calls came from smartphones and tablets.

MCSO said Desai allegedly was tampering with a bug that can affect devices and cause annoying pop-ups on Apple devices. He said he was trying to create a non-harmful but annoying bug that would cause phones to freeze and reboot. He thought the idea was “funny.”

Authorities said Desai told them that he hadn’t planned to release the 911 portion of the bug because he believed it was illegal. He then apparently tweeted the incorrect link which, when clicked on, caused the flood of calls.

Desai told investigators he was working on the bug to raise his prestige in the hacking community and to inform Apple about the bug. The company offers up to $200,000 to people who find bugs in its software.

Desai was charged with three counts of computer tampering, a Class 2 felony.

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