FBI warns of hackers taking over smart devices to livestream swatting incidents
Swatting—the act of calling 911 to report a fake crime so armed responders storm an address—is bad enough, but perpetrators of this crime are adding an extra element of unpleasantness by hacking victims’ smart devices and streaming the entire incident.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning smart home device owners to use complex, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication to protect against swatting attacks.
Criminals utilize the tried and tested method of harvesting email addresses and passwords from previous leaks, taking advantage of users who reuse credentials—a common practice, despite warnings not to use duplicates.
Once a hacker gains access to a smart home device with video and audio capabilities, the hoax call is made. An offender can watch the entire incident take place and “engages with the responding police through the camera and speakers,” the FBI said. “In some cases, the offender also live streams the incident on shared online community platforms.”
The FBI is working with smart device manufacturers to advise customers about the scheme. The agency is also alerting law enforcement first responders to the threat.
As noted by ZDNet, some swatters have been targeting public live-streamed events, such as weddings and church meetings, for a few years now, and plenty of gaming streamers have fallen victim in the middle of live broadcasts, but hacking into home smart devices is a new variant of the attack.
In 2017, what’s thought to have been the first swatting death occurred, reportedly the result of a $1.50 wagered Call Of Duty online match. Tyler Barriss received a 20-year prison sentence in 2019 for making the call that resulted in the death of Andrew Finch, who was not involved in the online altercation.