Swatters Hack Smart Devices

In a recent spate of swatting attacks, perpetrators have hijacked smart gadgets to watch or live stream the bad joke unfolding and engage the responding officers. Hackers have live-streamed police raids on innocent households after hijacking their victims' smart home devices and making a hoax call to the authorities, the FBI has warned.

These events are the latest escalation of a crime known as "swatting", in which offenders fool armed police or other emergency responders to go to a target's residence.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation confirms that pranksters are hijacking weakly-secured smart devices in order to live-stream swatting incidents. It said offenders had even spoken to responding officers via the hacked kit.

Swatting has origins in prank calls to emergency services and over the years, callers used increasingly sophisticated techniques to direct response units of particular types. In particular, attempts to have SWAT (US Special Armed Police using special weapons and tactics) teams be dispatched to particular locations spawned the term swatting.

Swatting is a criminal tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person's address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious threat. In a statement the FBI said  "Recently, offenders have been using victims' smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks"

To counteract the rising number of swat cases, FBI officials are now working with technology vendors to advise customers on how they could select better passwords for their devices. Furthermore, the FBI said it's also working to alert law enforcement first responders about this new swatting variation. 

Determining a fake emergency call is not always a simple task. Sometimes, offenders spoof the victim's phone number to increase credibility, so the dispatch officer has no reason to suspect a hoax.

Swatting is a criminal offense punishable by fines and prison time as it is considered a public safety issue. The FBI has first warned of this phenomenon since 2008, although it had started much earlier. In 2009, one swatter received more than eleven years in prison for using the tactic to harass various individuals. Another, involved in the 2017 Wichita swatting incident that ended with one individual being fatally shot.

Oodaloop:        Bleeping Computer:        ZDNet:       BBC

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