What Is Swatting and How Does It Work?

Updated on April 20, 2023
What Is Swatting and How Does It Work?

Swatting is a dangerous cybercrime that has gained notoriety in recent years. It is important to raise awareness about Swatting, its impact, and the steps that can be taken to prevent it. In this blog, we will explore what Swatting is, its dangers, why do people get swatted, and the efforts made to combat this cybercrime.

What is Swatting?

Swatting is a type of cybercrime that involves making a fake emergency call to law enforcement, such as the police or SWAT teams, to bring a heavily armed response to the location of the victim.

Swatting is a serious problem because it puts both the victim and law enforcement in danger. In many cases, the SWAT team arrives at the victim’s location with guns drawn, believing there is a serious threat. This can lead to physical harm, emotional trauma, and damage to property.

Moreover, the response cost, including the deployment of emergency services, can be high, and taxpayers are often left to foot the bill.

How Does Swatting Happen?

Let’s try to understand how people get swatted. Swatters may use various tactics to carry out Swatting, such as disguising their phone number using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, making the call from a public phone booth or stolen phone, or using the victim’s phone number to make the call. They may also use social engineering tactics, such as posing as the victim or someone else with access to the location, to convince law enforcement to take the threat seriously.

Once the call is made, law enforcement will typically respond with a heavily armed SWAT team to the location specified in the call. The team may forcibly enter the premises, causing property damage or physical harm to the victim or anyone else. Swatting can also result in serious legal consequences for the perpetrator, including criminal charges and imprisonment.

Swatting is a serious and dangerous crime that can have deadly consequences. Here are some ways swatting happens:

1.   Location Services

Swatting can be facilitated by location services on mobile devices and social media platforms. Location services use GPS or other technologies to determine the user’s location. Malicious actors can use this information to locate and target individuals, including using it to make a false report to law enforcement for Swatting.

For example, an attacker could use location services to determine the victim’s home address or current location and then falsely report a crime to law enforcement, claiming that the victim is an armed criminal or terrorist. By providing a false location, the attacker can direct the police to the victim’s location and prompt a SWAT team to respond.

Alternatively, an attacker could use location services to determine the victim’s location and then make a false report from a nearby public phone booth or other location. By providing a location near the victim, the attacker can increase the likelihood that law enforcement will respond to the victim’s location.

Individuals need to be aware of the potential risks associated with location services and take steps to protect their online privacy and security, such as disabling location services on their devices or being cautious about sharing their location on social media platforms.

2.   Doxing

Doxing, short for “document tracing,” is a practice where an individual’s personal information, such as their name, address, and phone number, is publicly shared online without their consent. Swatters may use doxing to obtain the victim’s personal information and then use that information to carry out Swatting.

For example, an attacker may use doxing to obtain the victim’s home address and then make a false report to law enforcement, claiming that the victim is an armed criminal or terrorist. By providing the victim’s address, the attacker can direct the police to the victim’s location and prompt a SWAT team to respond.

Doxing can also be used to gather information about the victim’s family members, friends, or other individuals who may be present at the victim’s location. The attacker can then use this information to make the false report more convincing and increase the chances that law enforcement will respond with force.

3.   IP Address

Swatters can also use an individual’s IP (Internet Protocol) address to carry out Swatting. An IP address is a unique numerical identifier assigned to each device connected to the internet. By identifying the victim’s IP address, a swatter can use various techniques to mask their IP address, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the call back to them.

For example, a swatter may use a technique known as “IP spoofing” to make it appear as if the false report is coming from the victim’s IP address when it is coming from the swatter’s location. This can make it difficult for law enforcement to determine the true source of the call and can lead to a SWAT team being sent to the victim’s location.

It is important for individuals to be aware of the risks associated with their IP address and take steps to protect themselves from Swatting, such as using strong passwords, keeping their software and devices up to date, and being cautious about sharing personal information online.

The Dangers of Swatting

Swatting is dangerous and can significantly harm both victims and law enforcement officers. The dangers of Swatting include:

1.   Physical and emotional harm to victims

Swatting victims may experience significant physical and emotional harm due to the false report. SWAT teams typically respond to Swatting calls with high force, often breaking down doors, using flashbang grenades, and pointing weapons at individuals in the home.

This can cause significant trauma to victims and their families and, in some cases, can lead to injury or death.

2.   Risk of injury or death to law enforcement

Swatting also puts law enforcement officers at risk of injury or death. When responding to a Swatting call, officers must be prepared for a potentially dangerous situation, even if the call is later determined to be a hoax. This can increase the likelihood of accidents or violence, putting both officers and bystanders at risk.

How to Prevent Swatting

1.   Secure your personal information

Swatting attacks often occur as a result of personal information being leaked or stolen. It is important to secure your personal information by regularly updating your passwords, enabling two-factor authentication on your accounts, and avoiding sharing personal information online. Consider using a password manager to create and store strong passwords for your accounts.

2.   Use non-emergency numbers to report suspicious activity

If you see something suspicious, it’s important to report it to your local law enforcement agency. However, using non-emergency numbers is important to avoid false alarms and reduce the risk of Swatting. Be aware of the types of behavior that could be misinterpreted as suspicious, such as taking photos of landmarks or buildings.

3.   Keep your location private

Swatting often happens when a perpetrator can determine the location of a victim. Be careful about sharing your location online, especially if you are a public figure. Consider using a VPN or other tools to help protect your location and online activity. It’s also important to turn off location services for apps that don’t need them, such as social media.

4.   Be prepared

If you are the target of a Swatting attack, it’s important to have a plan for handling the situation. This includes knowing how to communicate with law enforcement and how to stay safe. It’s important to have an emergency plan in place and to share it with trusted friends or family members. Consider having a security system installed in your home or workplace, and make sure that it is linked to local law enforcement.

5.   Advocate for stronger penalties for Swatting

Swatting is a serious crime that can cause significant harm to innocent people. It’s important to advocate for stronger penalties for Swatting, including increased fines and prison time for perpetrators.

Write to your elected representatives or participate in local community meetings to discuss the dangers of Swatting and the need for stronger penalties. Encourage others to report any incidents of Swatting that they have experienced or witnessed.

What To Do Once You Are Swatted

1.   Remain Calm

If you are swatted, it can be a very stressful and frightening experience. It’s important to remain calm and stay as composed as possible. Take deep breaths and focus on what you can do to protect yourself and others.

2.   Cooperate

If law enforcement officers arrive at your location, it’s important to cooperate with them. Follow their instructions and don’t make sudden movements or reach for anything without permission. Remember that law enforcement officers are there to protect you, and they may not know that you are the victim of a Swatting attack.

3.   Report It

It’s important to report the Swatting attack to your local law enforcement agency immediately. Provide as much information as possible about the incident, including any threats or messages you may have received before the attack. It’s also important to report any suspicious activity or communications you may have received leading up to the attack.

4.   Document Everything

Keep a record of all the details related to the Swatting attack, including the time and date of the incident, the names and badge numbers of any law enforcement officers who responded, and any communications or threats you received. This information can be helpful in the event of a future investigation or legal action.

5.   Seek Support

Being the victim of a Swatting attack can be a traumatic experience. It’s important to seek support from friends, family, or a professional counselor to help you cope with the stress and anxiety that you may be experiencing. Consider contacting victim support organizations or advocacy groups for additional resources and support.

How AstrillVPN Protects Users from Swatting

AstrillVPN provides a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the internet, which can help prevent your real IP address from being traced. When you use AstrillVPN, your internet traffic is routed through one of our servers in various countries worldwide. This means that your real IP address is hidden and replaced with the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to.

By using AstrillVPN, you can prevent someone from tracking your location or identifying your real IP address, which is a key component of a Swatting attack. Even if an attacker obtains your IP address, they will only see the IP address of the AstrillVPN server you are connected to, which is not linked to your physical location.

In addition, AstrillVPN employs advanced security measures to protect our users’ privacy and security. AstrillVPN service uses strong encryption protocols and features like Kill Switch, which can disconnect your internet connection if the AstrillVPN connection drops unexpectedly. This can help prevent your real IP address from being exposed in the event of a Swatting attack.

Furthermore, AstrillVPN has a strict no-logs policy, which means that we do not collect or store any information about your online activity or personal information. This provides additional protection for our users’ privacy and security.

Famous Swatting Cases

Here are some of the most well-known Swatting cases:

1.   Tyler Barriss – In December 2017

Tyler Barriss called the Wichita Police Department and falsely reported a shooting and hostage situation at the home of Andrew Finch. The police responded and shot and killed Finch, who was an innocent victim. Barriss was later arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

2.   Ashton Kutcher – In 2013

A 12-year-old boy called the police and falsely reported a shooting at the home of Ashton Kutcher. The police responded with a SWAT team but found no evidence of a crime. The boy was later arrested and charged with making false bomb threats and Swatting.

3.   Brian Krebs – In 2013

The home of cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs was swatted by a group of hackers known as the “Swatting Crew.” The group also targeted other high-profile individuals in the gaming industry. Several members of the group were later arrested and charged with various crimes.

4.   David Hogg – In 2018

David Hogg, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, was swatted while he was at home. The police responded with a SWAT team but found no evidence of a crime. Hogg later became an advocate for Swatting prevention.

5.   Justin Bieber – In 2012

A group of hackers known as “Team Poison” called the police and falsely reported a shooting at the home of Justin Bieber. The police responded with a SWAT team but found no evidence of a crime. Two members of the group were later arrested and charged with various crimes.

Notable Swatting Statistics

The following statistics demonstrate the widespread impact and danger of Swatting and the need for effective prevention and prosecution measures to address this serious issue.

  1. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that there are approximately 400 Swatting incidents annually in the United States.
  1. In a 2020 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey, 25% of respondents reported experiencing some form of doxxing, which can be a precursor to Swatting.
  1. In a 2018 National Emergency Number Association (NENA) study, 64% of 911 centers reported receiving Swatting calls.
  1. According to a 2017 report by the National Swatting Hoax Line, most Swatting incidents occur in the United States, with California, Florida, and Texas being the top three states with the highest number of incidents.
  1. In a 2019 survey conducted by the cybersecurity company NortonLifeLock, 1 in 10 Americans reported knowing someone who had been a victim of Swatting.
  1. The consequences of Swatting can be severe. In 2017, a man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a Swatting incident that resulted in the death of an innocent man.
  1. The cost of Swatting incidents can be high, with one incident in Kansas in 2018 resulting in a $300,000 bill for law enforcement response.

Legal Consequences and Efforts to Prevent Swatting

Swatting is a serious crime and can result in severe legal consequences for the perpetrator. In the United States, Swatting is considered a federal crime and can lead to arrest and prosecution under various federal laws, including those related to conspiracy, fraud, and making false statements.

Depending on the circumstances of the incident, the perpetrator may also face state-level charges for crimes such as reckless endangerment, assault, and terrorism.

In recent years, law enforcement agencies, legislators, and technology companies have taken steps to prevent Swatting and to hold perpetrators accountable. For example, the FBI established a National Swatting Task Force in 2018 to investigate and prosecute Swatting cases.

Several states have also passed laws that increase penalties for Swatting, including California, which allows for restitution to be paid to victims of Swatting incidents.

Technology companies have also taken steps to prevent Swatting, particularly in the gaming community, where Swatting incidents have been known to occur. For example, the gaming platform Twitch has implemented measures such as requiring streamers to verify their identity and location and allowing users to report potential Swatting incidents.

Additionally, some individuals have taken steps to protect themselves from Swatting by hiding their personal information online and using services such as virtual private networks (VPNs) to mask their IP addresses.

Conclusion

Swatting is a dangerous and illegal act that involves making false reports to emergency services, often resulting in a large police response. This can cause harm and fear for victims and law enforcement officers.

To prevent Swatting, individuals can protect their personal information and verify the identity of users on gaming platforms. Law enforcement agencies and legislators are taking Swatting seriously and increasing penalties. It is important to be aware of the dangers of Swatting and take steps to protect oneself. By working together, we can ensure the safety of our communities.

FAQs

Is swatting still a thing on Twitch?

Swatting has been an issue on Twitch in the past, but Twitch has implemented measures to prevent and discourage Swatting incidents. However, it is possible that Swatting still occurs on Twitch or other streaming platforms.

What famous streamers have been swatted?

Some famous streamers who have been swatted in the past include Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Jordan “Kootra” Mathewson, and Joshua “Koopatroopa787” Peters, among others.

Can Swatting happen to anyone?

Yes, Swatting can happen to anyone who is active online, including gamers, streamers, celebrities, politicians, and everyday internet users.

What should I do if I mistakenly report a false emergency?

If you mistakenly report a false emergency that leads to a Swatting incident, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency and explain the situation.

Can Swatting be classified as a hate crime or a form of cyberbullying?

Swatting can be classified as a hate crime or cyberbullying in certain cases. For example, if the Swatting incident targets someone based on their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or another protected characteristic, it may be considered a hate crime. Similarly, if the Swatting incident is intended to harass, intimidate, or embarrass the victim online, it may be classified as cyberbullying.

About The Author

Arsalan Rathore

Arsalan Rathore is a tech geek who loves to pen down his thoughts and views on cybersecurity, technology innovation, entertainment, and social issues. He likes sharing his thoughts about the emerging tech trends in the market and also loves discussing online privacy issues.

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