If you’ve been reading here for awhile you know I’m no big fan of SWAT teams in many small towns. Now hackers are using SWAT teams to get revenge on competitors or prank others.
Ever heard of SWATTING? It works like this:
Let’s say I have beef with you. In this day and age it’s pretty easy to track down where you live and find out a few things about you simply by doing some computer hacking. So I find out where you live and then using a phone masking system I call the cops and pretend to be you, or your son, or daughter, or just someone in the house.
I get on the phone with 911 and say, “I just shot my wife and now I’m going to shoot my kids.” They trace the call and find it coming from your house and dispatch a SWAT team to take care of the hostage situation.
Meanwhile, you’re at home watching TV, your kids are upstairs in their rooms doing homework, and your wife is puttering around in the kitchen. Suddenly your door flies open and ten cops in SWAT gear burst through the door to end the situation. If you’re lucky they won’t “end” you in the process.
Congratulations, you’ve just been SWATTED.
A lot of celebrities have been SWATTED lately and it’s now boiling over to the average guy. Check this out:
It’s relatively easy to swat someone, since law enforcement tends to err on the side of taking emergency calls seriously. The threshold for calling in a special forces team varies by district, but generally it seems to be enough to say you have a gun and a potential victim. All swatters really need is the victim’s address, a way to mask their phone number, and a crazy story to tell the 911 operator.
The police, as you can imagine, aren’t too happy about this either.
Swatting can bring harsh penalties. In 2007, a young man named Randal T. Ellis called in a hoax on an apparently random household using a deaf relay service. At first, Ellis told the 911 operator that his name was Ryan and his sister had overdosed on cocaine and gave the address of a house in Lake Forest, Washington, where Doug and Stacey Bates lived with their twin daughters. Ellis also claimed he had a gun and had shot someone in the face. He then threatened to shoot his mother and his sister.
Brian Sims, a sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, was the lead investigator on the case. He discovered that Ellis had used the California Relay System to call 911. About five search warrants later, Sims traced the call from an AOL account to a Comcast account and finally to Ellis. The 19-year-old went to jail for three years on five felony counts, including computer access and fraud, false imprisonment by violence, and falsely reporting a crime. He was ordered to pay $14,700 in restitution.
So far there haven’t been any reported injuries, but it’s only a matter of time. If someone happens to be sitting there with a gun on them it’s likely the police, who are hyped up at this point, won’t hesitate to shoot when they bust in and see it.
Having as many SWAT teams in the United States as we do is bad enough. There are many reports of SWAT hitting the wrong house and terrorizing the wrong folks. Now we also have this new fad to worry about.
Be watchful out there, my friends. You never know who’s going to knock on your door next.
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