Trendwatch: “swatting”—as in SWAT teams in your home—comes to Toronto

Trendwatch: “swatting”—as in SWAT teams in your home—comes to Toronto

(Image: Mike Rychlik from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool) 

On the list of things that might interrupt a nice quiet day at home, a visit from a fully armed SWAT team probably ranks near the bottom on the pleasantness scale. But “swatting” is apparently become trendy, as hackers exploit the weak security in VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) phone lines—like those provided by Rogers Home Phone—to get police teams sent to unsuspecting homes based on spurious calls. Last week it happened in Langley, B.C., and a week before that, it happened in North Toronto.

According to the Toronto Star:

At about 3 p.m. July 14, the 39-year-old software consultant was working at home while playing music on his headphones when he became the victim of a high-tech crime known as “swatting”…

By the time he crossed the apartment, the door had been broken and Myles was facing a phalanx of armed police, paramedics and firefighters. He was immediately handcuffed on the floor while police searched the apartment.

Someone had placed a 911 call claiming to have murdered their mother and threatening to kill their sister.

The victim in this case has nothing but kind words for the police, unlike in the B.C. case, where Louise Gray accused the RCMP of not taking the repeated phone hacking seriously—until the swatting occurred. It’s not clear what Rogers or any other VoIP provider can do to prevent these kinds of things in the future—following the Gray case, the RCMP noted that it’s not as easy to track a rogue phone call as it used to be back when Bell was the only phone company. But if people want to add this to the list of reasons to be angry at Canada’s big ISPs, we wouldn’t stop them.

Toronto man ‘swatted’ by hacker who summoned police [Toronto Star]
SWAT team tricked into surrounding home after bogus 911 call [Vancouver Sun]
Hacker’s swatting attack calls police to Langley home [CBC]