The concept of swatting is known from the 1970s when the first “phone phreakers” incidents took place. At that time, the lawbreakers performed hacker attacks on computer systems of telephone companies to make free long-distance calls. Today’s offenders call to 911 (in the USA it’s usually called SWAT team or Special Weapons Assault Team) with fake emergency reason reporting another person’s address. That’s why these fake callers are named “swatters” while the new phenomenon of fraudulent 911 calls become known as “swatting”. The callers often lie about hostages or bombs.
Why do swatters do that? In most cases, there is no financial interest. They do swatting simply because of bragging rights, ego, and jealousy. People that make swatting attacks tend to be emotionally unstable with such diagnosis as sadism, psychopathy or Machiavellianism. They usually do swatting for their personal entertainment in order to have fun and scare a victim. There is no chance to fully exclude such personalities from your audience. Once you decide to stream and become a public person, you become vulnerable to swatting attacks.
Why Swatting Is Dangerous?
- SWAT is a special police team with heavy guns – these people are taught to respond quickly to any dangerous situation. The residents (in our case innocent streamers that are swatted) may suffer moral and physical harm in the crossfire.
- When the SWAT team reacts to the fraudulent call, there can be a real emergency in another place. Swatters take attention off the real problems.
- The police officers are placed in danger because innocent residents may defend themselves.
- YouTube’s videos depicted famous streamers getting swatted are gathering millions of views, thus encouraging people to simulate this harmful experience.
Famous Streamers That Have Been Swatted
There are a lot of cases when famous streamers have been swatted while streaming. For example, one of the top Twitch streamers Summit1G was swatted on the street while playing “Pokemon GO”. Possibly, the fake call to police was made by the stream viewer who donated money accompanied by a promising phrase “watch the stream in 5 minutes”. The police were told that Summit1G had a weapon and put bombs in the park. Fortunately, Summit1G managed to explain to the police what is going on and reacted calmly.
Here is a sad swatting story of one of the top Twitch streamers Joshua Peters (“Koopatroopa787”) to demonstrate to you how dangerous swatting can be. Joshua was swatted by 10 heavily armed SWAT members that pointed their guns at Joshua’s little brothers. Peters realized what was going at the same time as his online audience when his mother called about the police arrival. Peters came back to the stream 15 minutes after the swatting attack with the tears on his eyes, despaired and broken. He was really scared that his relatives could have been shot.
Of course, there are less dramatic swatting cases. For instance, the popular League of Legends streamers Gross Gore even managed to turn all the situation in fun. He didn’t get scared when the SWAT team entered his house and just told the police officers to sit on the couch for a while until he finished his match.
Below is a compilation video of the most sensational swatting attacks within the streaming community.
Tips on How To Avoid Swatting
- Contact Police As Soon As You Start Your Streaming Career
The police allow streamers to register as potential targets of swatting. You should visit the local police department and put your name with a home address in the registry. Once the police receive a swatting call, the policemen will try to trace the call and be already aware that this call can be false.
- Avoid Putting Your Personal Info Online
We all used to live online forgetting about security and potential risks. All information that we put online, our purchases, the history of posts we like and share become a part of a public domain. Data searchers, surveillance agencies and marketers are hunting for this information. Limit data you share via social networks, hide your location and telephone number.
- Think About VPN Connection
Even if you carefully protect your personal information online, there is a chance to know your location thanks to the IP address. Hackers know how to find this information. VPN can help to hide your IP address (it’s especially useful when you are in the process of streaming, messaging and calling via VoIP services like Skype). There a lot of free and paid VPN services to choose from.
- Set a Two-Factor Authentication for Social Networks and Streaming Accounts
It means setting an additional security check to your email or mobile phone each time you log in. This feature is available for all Google services, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch. It would be better to have a second (not known to everyone) mobile phone number attributed to all your social networks and online accounts.
- Think Then Tell
When you talk to your online audience, be careful. It’s good to entertain people, communicate with them freely without scruple. But, be always aware of the fact that you are a public person. Any back talk, call up for a pizza and mentioning your home address or phone number endanger your security. Never share any documents online, avoid ordering food and processing any baking operations while you’re streaming your game.
We hope our tips have made you clear about what swatting is. Be a responsible streamer, gamer, and fan: do everything possible to ensure that there is no leak of personal information and your IP address is well-masked. You can also become an influencer to raise the awareness of security issues and online protection within the streaming community.