Prank calls are harmless most of us will agree, but, these days a new trolling phenomenon is hitting gaming broadcasters called “swatting”. Two years ago it was a prank played on online gamers broadcasting their live gaming video streams. An alarming rise in the number of dangerous swatting incidents, however have not only taken the fun out of it, but has also landed swatting as a serious federal crime.
DailyMail headline 13th October 2015
What Does Swatting mean For Gamers?
The definition that Wikipedia provides us reads:
“Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and 9-1-1 response team to another person’s address, based on the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged incident.
The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a specialized type of police unit in the United States and many other countries carrying military-style equipment such as door breaching weapons, sub-machine guns and assault rifles.”
In layman terms, “Swatting” or “Getting Swatted” is when an online gamer is broadcasting their online game play and a prankster calls the police reporting a serious crime in progress or life threatening emergency unfolding. In historical cases perpetrators have falsely reported bomb threats, murders, shootouts, hosting situations and alleged murder.
To make the concept even clearer check out this brilliant top 10 compilation of gamers getting swatted online in front of their webcams with thousands of people watching.
If you noticed in the video most gamers swatted in the video were broadcasting their live streams on Twitch. Now, my dear gaming enthusiasts you definitely know what getting swatted on Twitch means. But, the question most readers want answered is just how to avoid getting swatted on Twitch, YouTube etc.?
How to Avoid Swatting Incident on Twitch/Youtube?
Swatting is not a new concept for the US and Europe, the FBI published the article Don’t Make the Call: The New Phenomenon of ‘Swatting ’informing the US public that the act was in fact a crime and will be punishable under US law (a Federal Crime just to be concrete). On September 10th2013, then California Governor Jerry Brown approved a bill that intensified punishments for Swatting perpetrators.
So, how exactly do you secure yourself from a swatting incident if you are broadcasting your game play on Twitch? Read further and discover how not to get swatted on twitch/youtube and how to prevent it.
There is no defined strategy to counter an issue like swatting, since it just happens. You can however ensure certain measures are adopted to ensure if or when a swatting incident happens, things turn out favorably.
Here is a checklist you can follow to avoid swatting on Twitch and YouTube:
1. Register Yourself With The Local Police
The most important thing to do is personally visiting the local police and register yourself as a victim of possible swatting incidents. Explain the concept of swatting with proof from historical cases, there is a chance law enforcement agencies will already be aware of the incidents.
In case a swatting call is received, the police will be more intent to trace the call than raid your house looking for “Osama Bin Counterstrike.”
2. Remove Personal & Location Information From Online All Profiles
Diving deep in the sea of social media we all forgot one thing to secure, ourselves.We often forget that all our information, everything we buy, the posts we like, the photos we share and everything else we do online is a reflection of our personality. I used to get amazed how marketers got hold of my personal information to send me email and text messages to my phone. Turns out they were all getting this from my Facebookaccount, once the Facebook account was gone so did the marketing.
Your social accounts and online profiles are a big RED target for data miners, surveillance agencies, 3rd party marketers,and in this case hackers &criminals to get access to your personally identifiable information. Keep limited information on all your social profiles and other online accounts to ensure no one can get access to your location and phone number.
3. Secure Your IP Address & Home Network With A VPN
Even though you can secure your data and remove important information from social &other online profiles, there is always a chance hackers &cybercriminals can get a lock on your location through your online broadcast, usually through your IP address. This is a major intrusion on your network, threatening everyone connected to the home network.
An increasing number of users are now securing their personal networks and devices when they are online downloading torrents, messaging & calling over VoIP services, using social media, banking, shopping and even gaming online. A VPN by definition connects you to a remote server (located far from your location) allowing you to use its IP address & location. This secures your personal network from ever getting breached:
You can learn more about the benefits of using a VPN during your online game play broadcasts. By encrypting the video feed and your network information, the VPN service ensures no one including hackers, cybercriminals and snoops get access to your IP address.
4. Use 2 Factor Authentication For All Social And Broadcasting Accounts
When available always use two factor authentication to ensure that no one can hack into your devices and online accounts. This includes everything from Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and hundreds of other services that you are using.
It’s always good to have an additional security check attributed to your mobile phone. Ihave a security check placed whenever accessing my Google ID from another computer. But, do make sure this number is notavailable on any of your social account profiles.
5. Be Careful What You Talk About On The Live Broadcast
It’s understandable you have to entertain your audience watching the live game play broadcast. But this doesn’t mean you call up for pizza and broadcast your home address and phone number to the internet. Be careful of what you are talking about online, everything is recorded and witnesses by REAL people.
Never expose any documents with your personal information, especially don’t order food or conduct online banking when you are broadcasting a live gameplay feed.
What to Do If You Get Swatted?
In case you have been swatted and the police are storming your apartment simply follow protocol and do not resist. Remember the SWAT team is there to neutralize a criminal threat and will use extreme force. Simply follow the arrest routine, since you have nothing related to the false report they will eventually ask you.
Matthew Tollis was sentenced to prison for 366 days for causing multiple Swatting incidents
It is a bother getting arrested and being taken to the station, but it’s not more than your life, have a look at what happened to Tyran Dobbs when Zachary Lee (age 25) of Catonsville, Maryland, and Robert Walker McDaid (age 19) of Coventry, England, United Kingdom made a prank call to the local police. The perpetrators falsely reported that Dobbs was holding three hostages with intent to kill &a $15,000 ransom demand. Both Lee and McDaid have been charged and will be facing severe federal punishment in court.
In a Nutshell
I hope you have a better understanding of the concept of Swatting, plus the great hope that none of you will ever try this irresponsible act of cowardice ever. Be a responsible gamer, viewer and fan. If you liked my article, leave me a comment in the section below. If you feel I missed something do leave feedback to improve the article.