A few words about “Spoofing” and “SWATting,” and would it matter to you if somebody got killed?

Does everybody know what “spoofing” is? It’s when you make a phone call, but cause the receiving Caller ID to display a fake phone number. That is to say: I can call you, but your caller ID says it’s your grandmother. If I have her number.

Here’s an older news story that explains it:

Notice at about the 1:30 mark, where they point out that you can change the way your voice sounds to the person receiving the call.

That’s spoofing. “SWATting” is using spoofing to call the police, using your home phone number. It works like this:

  • I find your phone number and address;
  • I call your local police department — pretending to be you — to say that I’ve just shot my wife (or some similar thing);
  • Police arrive, already feeling the adrenaline and expecting to see some very negative karma.

And, possibly:

  • You, bewildered, answer the door and, just maybe, reach into a pocket to pull out a phone or an I.D.

It’s called “SWATting” because the SWAT team shows up. This has actually happened. If you’re a regular blog reader, you’ve probably already seen this, but here’s how Patterico described it:

At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up.

When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.

They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE?

…The call that sent deputies to my home was a hoax. Someone had pretended to be me. They called the police to say I had shot my wife. The sheriff’s deputies who arrived at my front door believed they were about to confront an armed man who had just shot his wife. I don’t blame the police for any of their actions. But I blame the person who made the call.

Because I could have been killed.

Luckily, nobody got shot. Either then, or during Erick Erickson’s less-dramatic experience. But it isn’t so hard to imagine otherwise. It’s 2 a.m. You’re sleepy. Or maybe you’ve had a few drinks. It’s your home, after all. You try to close the door; try to pick something up; reach into a pocket.

It isn’t hard to imagine a child — maybe hearing the noise downstairs and picking up his Star Wars blaster — being shot.

The question for whoever’s doing this: what if somebody does get shot? What if a child gets killed? I know, you didn’t intend for that to happen. But you’re creating a situation in which it might happen.

And let’s not forget the officer who pulled the trigger. His life will never be the same, either. Not to mention: “The Boy who Called Wolf.” Too many of these SWATting cases, and the police might begin to lose their edge in actually dangerous situations, unsure whether the call was real or just another damned prank.

Okay, so I know this is a useless exercise. Even if the person who SWATted Patterico and Erick Erickson (or someone who knows who did it, or someone who’d consider doing it) reads this, what are the odds it’ll change their minds?


But I hadn’t seen anyone point it out quite like this, so I figured I would.

By the way: a few years ago, Congress passed the “Truth in Caller ID Act,” which prohibits caller ID spoofing for the “purposes of defrauding or otherwise causing harm.” Problem being: you have to identify the caller in order to enforce the law.

(Posted by The TrogloPundit.)

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