Cyber Pranking 911 Swat Calls is a Crime

Swat team in action
Swat team in action | Source

Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident.

Cyber prank crimes

If you've ever had someone prank you, there's usually no harm involved and everyone has a laugh over it. Imagine a stranger accusing you a crime over the computer and reporting it to the FBI or CIA. They usually call the local SWAT team of the police in that area. This is called cyber swatting. When we hear the term “SWAT” on the news, it usually involves a group of commando-type people dressed in military garb, loaded with high powered rifles.

Actually it refers to a special team of trained police units to deal with very dangerous situations that the ordinary police dept aren't equipped to handle.SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics and is fashioned after military training tactics. They handle the most dangerous situations such as negotiating with hostage takers, dealing with terroristic situations, or serving high risk arrest warrants.

Incidents

Incidents on the rise

Some of the headlines appearing in my research involving the 9-1-1 hacks are:

  • LAPD will keep celebrity swatting cases secret
  • Ashton Kutcher gets "swatted"

  • Mile Cyrus Home newest victim of swatting prank

  • Swatting Prank Mobilize Swat Teams; Baffles Police

  • “Couple Swarmed by SWAT Team After after 911 hack”

  • “Man accused of hacking into 911”

  • Hacker's swatting attack calls police to Langley home

  • SWAT teams responding to 'swatting' hoaxes




Official seal of the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center
Official seal of the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center | Source

Bullies and cowards behind a screen

Bullying has taken on a whole new avenue. Modern day swatters have replaced the phoned in bomb threats of the seventies and eighties with something more sinister. I remember teaching in high schools and every May and June, during the finals testing days,some kid would call in a bomb threat. We would have to stand out in the hot field for a few hours while the building was searched. College campuses are also subject to this abuse.

But now the pranksters have upped the ante and use high tech hacking techniques to phone in these phoney hostage situations to the local police or FBI headquarters. They manage to get into the victims internet account, online game accounts and fake ID's.

According to The FBI’s website, five “swatters” dialed 9-1-1 in more than 60 cities across the US, affecting more than 100 people states, between 2002 and 2006 . These incidents resulted in more than $250,000 in loses to emergency responders and telecommunications providers.

The hackers are getting information from telephone party lines, social websites, forums and other places where personal information is posted. There are reasons for privacy restrictions. With identity theft, and cyber bullying on the rise, one's information can be lethal in the wrong hands.

Most of the hackers are young men between the ages of 14-24. They do it for revenge, bragging rights and the thrill of the challenge.

Miley Cyrus Home being Swatted

The incidents involved innocent families sleeping and minding their own business. None were ever in trouble and were law abiding citizens for the most part. Some of the people involved weren't home at all and the police SWAT team had hours of standoffs thinking there were people in danger.

Can you imagine if the people involved had pulled a gun in self defense as some strangers were banging on the door in the middle of the night? There were small children and some elderly people inside. Are these hackers trying to get people killed? In a small instance,only some of the people were targeted as revenge pranks. For the most part, these were innocent victims.

Celebrities victims of swatting

Celebrities are now being singled out. Miley Cyrus was the victim of a cyber swatter. Emergency workers are sent out at taxpayers expense. A possible real life emergency could be left with fewer responders due to this stupid practice.

Ashton Kutscher Swatted

No one is safe from these bored cyber pranksters, it seems. The latest fad is to call the authorities about celebrities that are in extreme danger. The caller calls 911 and reports hearing gun shots, or a false kidnapping, and the celebrities are the targets.

The latest people in the news are Tom Cruise, Ashton Krutcher, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardasiian.

Watch the news reports and see how seriously the police take these calls.

"Damn Daniel" victim of swatting

Cracking down on Swatters

If you are bored and thinking about calling in a fake terroristic or hostage situation, then you are indeed seriously a human without a conscious. Imagine your family members or friends going through this very same thing. The SWAT team breaks down the door and aims rifles and assault weapons in your face, barking orders to lie on the floor, face down. Of course the these young men want the victims to suffer-that’s the whole point.

consequences

Calling in fake hostage situations or hacking the 911 dispatch is a serious offense and the convicted persons are dealt with firmly. The FBI is cracking down on computer hackers. Matthew Weigman, a blind 19-year-old hacker from Massachusetts is now serving 11 years in federal prison for swatting. Hows 10-20 years sound to you for your pranking phone call? The trouble is that these young tech geeks think they'll too smart to get caught. They do brag and eventually are ratted out. No one wants to pull off such a feat and not have their friends know about it.

Tom Cruise has been Swattted

Punishment is Swift

Here are a few stories about these few that are caught and sent away for many years. It's considered a federal felony to hack into systems so think hard before trying it.

  • FBI is cracking down on swatters with one of their biggest arrest of Matthew Weigman, a blind 19-year-old hacker from Massachusetts who is now serving 11 years in federal prison for swatting.

  • Notorious phone phreakier gets 11 years for swatting

  • Juvenile Computer Hacker Sentenced for Computer Intrusion, Interstate Threats, and Wire Fraud Stemming from Hacking, Botnet, and “Swatting” Activities

  • Hacker Gets 5 years for Prank 911 calls

  • Phony 911 call hacker sentenced to 3 years

Final thoughts about Swatters

Unfortunately many hackers go undetected and unpunished. It's a matter of time before one slips up and lets his buddies know what he did. Technology is always advancing so the law enforcement agencies need to recruit the best; even if that means a former hacker. After all, former criminals are used to detect problems in major corporations security systems, why not law enforcement.

Steps to take

Edit what you write on social networks such as town,phone numbers and agenda. Giving out too much information will set anyone up for a prankster to send the local police swat team to your home in the middle of the night. Get anti-tracking software and add on programs to cover your internet tracks. And use common sense. Don't answer every request online to 'friend" someone. Check the requester out before accepting.

Who's to blame?

Are we as a society to blame? Why are these young men disconnected from others? Are there warning signs? Could any of these hackers have easily have been a mass murderer, as in the Columbine incident? Why do they hide behind the relative safety of the keyboard,exacting revenge on their unsuspecting victims?

There must be some warning signs in place to deter and profile these sociopaths. It's difficult to know who is a danger to others If we have failed to identify and treat students out in the public schools, how an we learn from this?



Swatting poll

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of Swatting?

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© 2011 Stacie L

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Comments 20 comments

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 3 years ago Author

Yes I agree. There are too many young people and some older who are wasting their talents to do others harm.

Too many kids are left alone with a computer and no social interaction with real people I guess

thanks for visiting.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

How sad it is that there are people out there doing this. They apparently have too much time on their hands and they have not had to face the consequences of their behavior before.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 4 years ago Author

Yes, someone will end up dead;I'm surprised it hasn't happened already. Bored kids and adults are sitting on their computers sending these prank calls to law enforcement just for kicks! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 4 years ago Author

Yes, I had learned about kids calling in pranks and they graduated to calling the swat teams out. A very dangerous game played by idiots.

Thanks for reading and sharing.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Someone will end up dead from swatting it's going to happen. How sad that there is nothing better to do than hurt other people for no reason. Interesting hub voted up.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

This was really interesting, although a little disturbing! I had never even heard of swatting, let alone cyber swatting. A complete waste of money, resources and endangering lives.

Shared with followers and twitter, up and interesting.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 4 years ago Author

klarawieck : Thanks for reading about my cyber swattig hub. Yes, reality shows are probably having a negative influence on today's kids.

This crime is very serious and they need to be jailed.


klarawieck 4 years ago

Low self-esteem... people will do anything to get attention from a crowd. And reality shows continue to push the limit, giving kids the idea that it's cool to do something that, they know can hurt others, but will get them to be noticed.

Thanks for posting this. It's something serious and people should be mindful ot this issue.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

JasonHunt: Yes, Cyber swatters are stupid. Thanks for reading.


JasonHunt profile image

JasonHunt 5 years ago from South Florida

These swatters are so stupid it's funny. Hope every one of them gets busted.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

Wayne Brown: yes,there are all kinds of idiots in the world... and some kids that have too much time on their hands plotting against others they see are their enemies.

They need to promote their so called intelligence in more positive pursuits

Thanks for commenting


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

I suppose there is no limit to what idiots will do if they can find a method. In situations such as this, it is just a matter of time before someone get hurt or possibly killed by some inadvertant actions they carry out when confronted in one of these fake SWAT's. The amazing is that those who would carry out such a stunt look upon it as an act of their intelligence...how absurd! Thanks for sharing this. WB


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@jacqui2011: Swatting doesn't seem to get a lot of attention on the news I noticed. Maybe that is a deliberate decision so there aren't more copycats. Thanks for commenting about my hub!


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

I had never heard about "swatting" until I read your hub today. It is shocking that this actually goes on, wasting the valuable resources of what should be "emergency" services. A very interesting article.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@Mr. Happy: thank you for reading and commenting on my hub on Swatting.yes I agree that doing time without some therapy is useless and they do feel a disconnect from the rest of society.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Ya ... that's going a a little too far, to say the least ...

I am not sure if eleven years in jail is an appropriate response though. Obviously these kids or young people, have some serious issues not to see the implications of their actions. The glitch in their reasoning is not going to be fixed by eleven years of hard-time. They most likely need a psychiatrist or a social worker, etc. attending to them and their issues.

I think this is just another of the outcomes of young people feeling completely disconnected from the societies they live in and without a purpose in their lives.

They need to be engaged in ways that are attractive to them. The educational system is failing, religions have more or less gone down the drain and kids are left at home with the TV and computer ...

Just an opinion. Thank you for writing this! All the best.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@Nick Lucas. thank you for reading and leaving your comment son my Swatting hub. I don't understand it wither. it's not innocent fun like a call parnk.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@Seeker7: I can't understand how someone would do such a thing either. They are sociopaths in my opinion;devoid of empathy for others and only concerned for their sick pleasure in harming others.

thank you for commenting


Nick Lucas 5 years ago

After everything that has happened in the last decade, it is hard to understand or rationalize someone still pulling bomb type pranks or scares equal to one. Nice Piece!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

This is a really fascinating if disturbing hub.

I hadn't heard of the term 'swatting' until now. It really disgusts me how some people get their kicks today - irrespective if it could cost innocent lives. You ask in your hub how these 'swatters' would feel if the same happened to their own families - but I wonder if they would really care? Maybe this would be just as thrilling to their feeble, ignorant, cold minds as the idea of other innocents getting caught up in this frightening situation. But it does seem as if the authorities are treating this with the harshness it deserves - personally I would give them all 20 years hard labour with no chance of parole.

An excellent hub. Voted up!

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