Swatting: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself
Swatting is the act of tricking emergency services to send police or other emergency personnel to another person’s address. This hoax can be done through reporting a false report such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation or any other alleged emergency. The term swatting is derived from the law enforcement unit “SWAT” which is a specialized type of police unit in the United States and other countries.
SWAT team units specialize in carrying military-style equipment for use during serious threats. These may include evacuations, hostage situations and other severe and dangerous criminal activities. Swatting is described as personal terrorism as it has the potential to intimidate its subjects and even create a risk of injury or death, through deceptive reports resulting in serious action.
Making false reports to emergency services is a criminal offense punishable by fines and imprisonment. It creates wasted money and tax dollars by the city or county responding to the false report. In many states, swatters bear the full cost of the additional response brought on by the fake emergency call, which can be thousands of dollars.
According to the FBI, approximately 400 cases of swatting occur every year in the United States. Swatting often starts on the internet. The swatter may be triggered by an argument on social media and take revenge through swatting. Or, swatting can be a completely random attack, only done because the swatter wants a sick thrill at other’s expense.
Either way, the swatter needs to know your location for this to happen. Just imagine you are enjoying a quiet evening at home, when suddenly your door is busted down by a swat team and bomb squad with military weapons. It might take awhile for everyone to realize you have all been the victims of a swatter!
How to Protect Yourself from Swatting
Swatting is becoming more popular and can happen to anyone. Please read on for some helpful hints you can use to avoid being the victim of swatting.
Be Careful with Your Personal Information
Be mindful of what you post on social or online profiles as your personal information could assist a swatter in determining your location. Some swat victims have made the mistake of leaving their physical addresses on publicly available profiles. It is advisable to limit information posted online, especially if it might give access to your location or phone number.
Secure Your IP Address Using a VPN
One of the easiest ways for swatters to find your location is through your IP address. It is imperative that you secure your IP address with a VPN. This will route all internet traffic to and from your device to an intermediary server, thereby masking your real identity and location. Also, VPNs will not slow down your internet connection and offer a variety of security and privacy features for extra protection. While your IP Address without a VPN will not show your home address, it can list the city you’re located in… which will make it easy for a swatter to narrow it down with an online search.
Use Two Factor Authentication
It is highly recommended to use two-factor authentication for all your social accounts. The extra step for authentication results in one-use codes sent to your phone. These make it a lot more difficult for someone to hack into your online accounts and/or personal information.
Never Click on Unrecognize Attachments or Suspicious Links
You need to be observant and aware of the attachments you open and which websites you visit. Swatters are increasingly using social engineering tactics to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal information.
If Live Broadcasting, Be Careful of What You Talk About
If you broadcast online, be very careful about what you talk about. Remember there may be thousands of viewers watching, listening to every word you say. The broadcast may also be recorded. Without realizing, you may expose personal information that can give swatters precisely what they need for you to be their next victim.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what swatting means and how to protect yourself from this severe type of prank. If you feel you have a suspicious email or link request, Social Catfish is an excellent source to assist you in identifying your possible swatter. Please feel free to contact Social Catfish anytime.