In recent years, swatting has become amongst the most common harassment techniques often orchestrated and executed by members of the online gaming community. Arguably, swatters usually consider it a prank, but these actions come with severe consequences. For instance, swatting keeps law enforcement response teams occupied and unavailable to acknowledge and respond to actual emergencies.
There have even been swatting instances where the victim was shot by law enforcement and another where a member of law enforcement was shot dead. Recently, the US has tried to deter swatters by exacting severe penalties for them, but swatting incidents still occur. Since most swatters use sophisticated techniques to obscure their identity, it is difficult for law enforcement to address swatting.
Swatters also use techniques such as caller ID spoofing to disguise themselves as local calls even when they are in other countries or contnents. This has made it clear that gamers should utilize VPN security features such as those suggested by AlwaysVPN to secure their IP addresses making them less liable to swatting. In addition, it’s vital to take the initiative to protect yourself against swatting.
What is Swatting?
Swatting refers to making hoax phone calls to emergency services to report serious crimes. Individuals who make these swatting prank calls do so with the intent to trick emergency services into sending a Special Weapons and Tactics team to address supposed emergencies.
To encourage the most severe response from emergency services, swatters will falsely report significant events such as murders, bomb threats, and hostage situations. It’s no wonder that there have been several deaths of individuals innocently targeted by SWAT teams due to swatting.
How Does Swatting Occur?
Swatters often obtain their victim’s personal information through:
Every internet user has an allocated IP address unique to their home or work network and personal devices. Although IP addresses allow people to communicate to other computers and access the internet, they should be private. Swatters have sophisticated ways of finding IP addresses to gain further personal information.
Doxing refers to how cybercriminals retrieve and share other people’s personal information on the internet. It involves gathering information through social media platforms, accessing public databases, and hacking personal accounts.
Mobile phones, computers, and gaming consoles allow users to enable location services allowing the device to access their location for a personalized experience. However, this makes the user’s location visible and accessible to potential swatters.
Over-sharing personal information on social media platforms and websites makes it easier for attackers to access your personal information. Sharing your home address especially makes you liable to swatting incidents.
How to Protect Yourself Against Swatting
Turn on Two-Factor Authentication
Most platforms offer options for two-factor authentication for added security. Turning this feature on helps deter anyone trying to access your account since they will need a code that only you have access to. It’s vital to enable ‘two-factor authentication‘ when accessing popular platforms.
Switch Up Your Passwords
Changing your passwords regularly and making them different for each social media platform and email account is the best way to secure your accounts. In the event that a swatter compromises one of your accounts, they won’t be able to access your other accounts with the same password – lowering the risk of gaining more of your personal information. This gives you control over your ‘recovery accounts’ and resetting your passwords.
When you utilize the privacy and security settings on your social media accounts and devices, you make it impossible for swatters to access your information. It is essential to regularly check all safety and security settings for your email and social media accounts, even more so when switching to devices or computers that might have different security settings for passwords.
Secure Your Personal Information
Even though swatting is still rare, it has recently made the news several times. Swatting has resulted in severe injuries and deaths, and while live-streaming gains more popularity, the risk of swatting goes higher for influencers and streamers that choose to make their private lives public. To avoid being a victim of swatting, it’s best to secure all your personal information.