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Security Reporter Victim of Phone "Swatting" - SWAT Team Descends on Home

Sharon Nelson photoHat tip to Dave Ries. ars technica recently reported on a chilling incident that happened in Northern Virginia.

Brian Krebs is something of a legend among security reporters. His exposés completely closed a California hosting company that was friendly to spammers and child pornographers and severely impacted an organized crime syndicate known as Russian Business Network. He has also followed the money trail to people who sell malware kits, stolen credit reports and denial-of-service attack help in underground forums.

Krebs has long been on the receiving end of DDoS attacks. His site, KrebsonSecurity, is regularly knocked offline by these attacks, likely from those he has investigated.

Earlier this month, he became one of the first journalists to be on the receiving end of a vicious hoax that prompted a raid on his Northern Virginia home by a swarm of heavily armed police officers. The hacking tactic, known as "swatting," involves using computers or special phone equipment to make emergency calls that appear to come from their target's phone number. When a 911 operator answers, they report a life-threatening, sometimes horrific crime in progress. Police, often armed with assault rifles, come to the victim's home, sometimes breaking down doors thinking that lives are at stake because of home invasion robberies or drug addicts murdering people.

Around 5 p.m., Krebs was preparing his home for a small dinner party. While vacuuming his home, his phone rang a few times, but he decided not to answer since he didn't want his party preparations to be delayed. He realized there was still some tape at the entrance of his house where Christmas lights had been and thought he'd remove it before his guests arrived.

As soon as he opened the door, an officer pointed a pistol at him and told him to put his hands up.

In all, there were at least a dozen officers with pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles pointed at him. They had police dogs circling his house and cruisers had sealed off a nearby street. Krebs, who was dressed in just gym shorts and a T-shirt, did as he was told.

An officer of the department told him that police received a 911 call that appeared to come from Krebs' phone. The caller posed as Krebs and said he was hiding in a closet after Russian thieves had broken into his home and shot his wife. They were now stealing jewelry, the caller reported.

After a few minutes in custody, Krebs explained that he was the victim of a crime known as swatting. One of the officers asked if Krebs was the person who had filed a report a few months earlier about threats against him. When Krebs replied yes, the officers did a quick search of his home, saw the dinner party preparations and realized that the call was a hoax. Those calls he received? They were from the police trying to call him.

I'll bet he wished he had answered those calls. Horrifying story.


Thanks to our friend Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. for sharing this April 3, 2013 entry from her Ride The Lightning blog. Sharon is President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a computer forensics and legal technology firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA.

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