How Can Law Enforcement Combat Swatting?

swatting

Swatting in progress

How Can Law Enforcement Combat Swatting?

“Swatting” is a prank that could turn deadly very fast.

It is defined as “the act of deceiving an emergency service into sending a police and 911 response team to another person’s address, based on the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged incident.”

Here’s a basic breakdown of how swatting works:

  1. I’m sitting at my computer, streaming myself live playing video games
  2. The person doing the swatting figures out my address somehow
  3. They call 911 and make a serious false call like an active shooter situation or murder
  4. SWAT and/or the first officers on scene respond like it is a real situation

The act of swatting has become a very serious issue the past few years and is becoming more frequent, specifically in the online gaming community. The explosion in popularity of online video game streaming services like Twitch.tv have caused malicious pranksters to pop up all over the place.

Pranksters normally use online voice services such as Skype and software designed to hide their IP address to place the false calls. Not everyone gets away with it though. Two years ago a 15 year old from Louisiana was convicted of 2 counts of domestic terrorism, which carried a sentence of 25 years to life in a federal prison. Although swatting can carry very serious charges, people are still doing it.

Only a few dozen incidents have been reported, but it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt from the extremely malicious practice of swatting.

How do you suggest law enforcement agencies can protect against swatting?

  • Blade

    Someone is going to get killed. An innocent gamer by a police officer, or an officer by a gamer who doesn’t realize it’s the cops breaking down his/her door. It’s just a matter of time. Given the severity and urgency of the fake calls, I can’t imagine what the police could do to lessen the threat (short of a pre-emptive overwhelming flash bang attack). Perhaps considering the source of the originating call (Direct 9-1-1 versus internet based apps like Skype) Maybe consider having a 9-1-1 operator or police dispatcher attempt telephone contact before rushing in on app based calls (much like they do for 9-1-1 disconnects).

    • JannaR

      I like that idea!