Swatting

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Swatting is the tricking of any emergency service (via such means as hoaxing a 9-1-1 dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an on-going critical incident. Episodes range from large to small, from the deployment of bomb squads, SWAT units and other police units and the concurrent evacuations of schools and businesses to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta. While it is a misdemeanor or a felony in the USA in and of itself to report any untruth to law enforcement, swatting can cause massive disruption to the civil order and the public peace by the hoaxed deployment of police and other civic resources such as ambulances and fire departments. The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a highly specialized type of police unit.

History and current status[edit]

Swatting has its origins in prank calls to emergency services. Increasing sophistication of the techniques employed and the objectives, notably attempts to direct response units of particular types, and in particular attempts to cause SWAT teams to be dispatched to particular locations, spawned the term swatting. The term was used by the FBI as far back as 2008.[1]

In 2009, phreaker Matthew Weigman pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy including "involvement in a swatting conspiracy" and attempting to retaliate against a witness.[2] He was sentenced to over 11 years in federal prison.[3]

In 2013, a number of US celebrities became the victims of swatting pranks, including Sean Combs.[4] In the past, there have been swatting incidents at the homes of Ashton Kutcher, Tom Cruise, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Clint Eastwood.[5] A law in the state of California will make it possible for authorities to require pranksters to bear the "full cost" of the response which can range up to $10,000.[5]

In May 2014, a 16-year-old in Ottawa, Canada was arrested for having made thirty fraudulent emergency calls across North America,[6] leading to sixty charges "including uttering death threats, conveying false information with intent to alarm, public mischief and mischief to property."[7][8]

On August 27, 2014, YouTube gaming celebrity Jordan Mathewson, known online as Kootra, live streamed a game of Counter Strike: Global Offensive on Twitch. A viewer called 911 claiming that there was a shooting in the building with hostages. A SWAT team raided the office that Mathewson's gaming company, The Creatures LLC, was operating out of. Mathewson was thrown to the ground and searched as officers searched the room. The events were broadcast live on the internet, until law enforcement set the camera lens-down on Mathewson's desk.[9] Videos of the swatting went viral, gaining over three million views on YouTube and being reported on news programs all over the world.

On the September 11, 2014, Bukkit programmer Wesley "Wolvereness" Wolfe was the victim of a swatting incident. An unidentified Skype caller told police that Wolfe had shot his parents and was on a killing spree. Wolfe believed he was targeted in retaliation to his issuing of a DMCA takedown of CraftBukkit from the Bukkit repository. [10][11]

Techniques[edit]

Caller ID spoofing, social engineering, TTY, prank calls and phone phreaking techniques may be variously combined. 911 systems (including telephony and human operators) have been tricked by calls placed from cities hundreds of miles away or even from other countries.[12] The caller typically places a 911 call using a spoofed phone number with the goal of tricking emergency authorities into responding to an address with a SWAT team to an emergency that doesn't exist.

Congressional involvement[edit]

CNN interviewed political commentator Erick Erickson to discuss an incident in which he had been the victim of swatting. The caller to 911 claimed:

I just shot my wife, so.... I don't think I could come down there.... She's dead, now.... I'm looking at her.... I'm going to shoot someone else, soon.

—911 caller, [13]

That incident prompted Sandy Adams, who represents Florida's 24th congressional district, to push for a Justice Department investigation.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Don’t Make the Call: The New Phenomenon of ‘Swatting’". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 4 Feb 2008. 
  2. ^ Matthew Weigman Guilty Plea Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, 29 January 2009, retrieved 10 July 2009
  3. ^ Blind Hacker Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Kevin Poulsen, Wired News, 29 June 2009, retrieved 10 July 2009
  4. ^ "Diddy the latest swatting prank". 3 News NZ. 
  5. ^ a b Jeff Black, Staff Writer, NBC News, Sept. 11, 2013, California governor signs bill to crack down on celebrity 'swatting', Accessed Sept. 11, 2013
  6. ^ http://www.fbi.gov/losangeles/press-releases/2014/canadian-law-enforcement-officers-arrest-canadian-resident-suspected-in-series-of-swatting-incidents-throughout-north-america
  7. ^ http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Swatting+leads+charges+against+Ottawa/9824837/story.html
  8. ^ http://krebsonsecurity.com/2014/05/teen-arrested-for-30-swattings-bomb-threats/
  9. ^ "Suburban Denver ‘swatting’ incident caught on gamer’s camera". New York Daily News. 27 Aug 2014. 
  10. ^ "'Minecraft' CraftBukkit Mod Developer Becomes Victim of Swatting". 
  11. ^ "Video game developer, police run afoul of "swatting" hoax". 
  12. ^ Prentice, George (2013-04-13). "UPDATE: Meridian Teen Charged With Conspiracy With Australian Youth To Make Bomb Threats To Schools, Businesses | citydesk". Boiseweekly.com. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  13. ^ Shirek, Jon. "9-1-1 hoax snares conservative blogger". WXIA-TV Atlanta, Pacific and Southern Company, Inc. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "PICKET: FLA Congresswoman leads 85 member effort demanding Swat-ting investigation from DOJ". Washington Times. June 10, 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 

External links[edit]