Monday, March 2, 2015

Swatting -- Another New Form of Harassment On Rise

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

A new trend in cyber harassment is something called swatting. This assault occurs when a harasser anonymously files a false police report such as a bomb threat, murder, or other crime in progress for the purpose of provoking the police to raid a victim’s home or business. Although it is considered a harmless way to have “fun” by many younger people, they are in for a sore surprise as it has recently cost one teenager much more than he bargained for. 15-year-old Paul Horner broke down in tears after a judge found him guilty on two counts of domestic terrorism and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life in a United States prison. He is the first person in history to be charged with swatting. In this case, he was found guilty of calling in multiple false threats against rival internet gamers, all resulting in police action that placed individuals in harms way as raids were carried out.  
Swatting is a new fad among gamers targeting those who broadcast themselves and their game play live over the internet to game rivals. It is common for online games to become very competitive, often leading to escalating adverse behaviours. If an internet harasser is able to obtain personal information of their rival or anyone they have a problem with, such as locating their IP and residential address, they will call in a dangerous threat to law enforcement and watch, if possible, on webcams as the victim’s house is forcibly entered by police. Law enforcement agencies say the crime, which has been happening with greater frequency since 2013, wastes valuable resources and places innocent people at risk. Unfortunately, this crime has gone largely unpunished, a fact which seems to encourage more of the same behaviours. However, with the prosecution of the teenager in the above mentioned case, it is sending the message that people will be held substantially accountable for their digital actions.