The Bridge: Swatting is on the rise – online trolls are calling the cops over personal beefs, and the consequences can be deadly. So what is swatting? We take a look at this “prank” and give you some insight into why it happens.
Bad Boys Bad Boys, What You Gonna Do?
Put simply, swatting is the practice of faking an emergency phone call to local police in the hopes that they storm an innocent person’s house. Usually it’s preceded by some sort of argument between two people who have never met – whether rival gamers, or even disgruntled fans. The earliest instances of swatting happened over 15 years ago, though they have increased in prevalence in recent years.
Everyone from celebrities to average Joes, men, women and kids, have been victims of swatting. Fortunately few calls end in tragedy and death – thanks to capable police departments and an increase in awareness, most instances are bloodless and mostly inconvenient. But there have been casualties in the past, so it’s important to take a closer look.
For Whom the SWAT Swats
3 high-profile streamers were swatted this week, and investigations are ongoing. Many of these crimes can be hard to track, but even the most sophisticated hackers have their vulnerabilities. In the more extreme cases, the perpetrators have been found and aggressively sentenced.
Young kids grow up today with the internet as an obvious part of their lives, unlike the generations before them. Before the net was so ubiquitous, the idea of stranger danger felt more prevalent. Now kids use their full names in screen names, gamertags have identifiable information, and doxing is a real concern.
This can be an important lesson in safety – though your chances of being swatted are considerably low (there are only about 400 cases a year in the USA), there are a few ways to avoid even the unlikeliest route.
The knowledge of limitations to online privacy, best practices, and security is one branch of this tree. Another is simple awareness and online courtesy. As more law enforcement agencies ramp up their savviness and as tech gets more sophisticated, it’s likely that this disturbing trend will grow more difficult–if not impossible–to pull off. And with previous perps in prison, sometimes for decades, future would-be criminals have an obvious deterrent. The risks are simply not worth it.