Various hackers around the world have found a new hobby.
Recently, there has been a rise in “Swatting Attacks”, which have seen hackers take advantage of the notoriously weak or nonexistent security in “smart” devices built for home use. Hackers do this so they can call the police on you and then watch you and the emergency responders through your home security cameras.
The name of this particular type of attack gets its name from Special Weapon and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) law enforcement teams, but hackers will happily substitute other emergency services personnel for their amusement.
The attack works like this:
A hacker will prank call emergency services local to a camera they’ve hacked into inside someone’s home, with the aim being to generate a response to that individual’s residence. The exact nature of the prank call is left to the imagination of the hacker, but it could be anything from illegal aliens to drug operations to domestic abuse. It’s always something highly provocative though, which increases the chance of a response.
Naturally, the homeowners have no idea that the call has been placed or that emergency responders are en route, so they’re taken by complete surprise when armed officers show up suddenly at their house. To say that it creates a tense situation is an understatement. It creates an absolute powder keg and there’s a very real risk that someone could get hurt as a result of the dangerous game the hackers are playing.
The problem has gotten bad enough that the FBI recently issued a bulletin about it as a warning. Although launching this kind of attack is a criminal offense, it can be a notoriously difficult case to prove, assuming it was a reasonably competent hacker.
2020 has been a spectacularly bad, difficult year, and the rise in this kind of attack certainly isn’t helping to make it any better. If you have smart cameras in your home, your first line of defense against Swatting Attacks is to secure those devices as best you can, or simply disable them unless they’re absolutely critical so you don’t wind up being the latest episode of reality TV for the hackers who do this sort of thing.