The Growing Problem of Swatting and Why Experts Say It’s a Dangerous Trend
Cyber security experts say Burnaby RCMP may have their work cut out for them as they try to identify who was behind an apparent hoax that sparked a massive police response in Metrotown on Friday.
RCMP and Metro Vancouver Transit Police responded in force on Friday afternoon, amid reports of a homemade bomb at SkyTrain station and an active shooter in the mall.
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Panicked shoppers and commuters were forced to evacuate, but after searching the sites, investigators found no threat. Police said they are now investigating the incident as a potential “swatting” attack.
One person was also arrested in a third false bomb threat at a school in Port Moody, and mounted police said they were working to determine if the three events were linked.
A potentially deadly “farce”
“Swatting” refers to an intentional false report to police intended to trigger the deployment of an emergency response team, said Ilia Lvovsky, BCIT’s digital forensics and cybersecurity instructor.
“For example, there is a hostage-taking, or there is a bomb or there is an active shooter and through that the SWAT unit has to react,” he said.
The rich Canadian history of swatting
Michael Argast, co-founder of cybersecurity firm Kobalt.io, said the attacks are frequently associated with the online gaming community, although the motivations have ranged from outright farce to revenge to attack. for the location.
“Like many other forms of attack, once the criminals figure out how to carry it out, once it can be monetized, there are even crushing services available on the dark web,” he said. declared.
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Cyber security experts say crush attacks are a growing problem, although it is difficult to track exactly how many are occurring as they can be recorded in different ways by different law enforcement agencies.
In 2019, former FBI crush expert Kevin Kolbye said The Economist the United States could process up to 1,000 a year. Attacks have been on the office’s radar since at least 2008.
If they waste police resources, their consequences can be much more serious.
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“It could be fatal,” Lvovsky said, highlighting a 2017 case where a dispute between online gamers led to a fatal attack when police were deployed to the home of an unrelated third party in Wichita, Kansas. .
“So a SWAT unit was sent to someone else’s address, and as a result of sending an individual was killed, because when a SWAT unit is sent you never know what what will happen. “
A 26-year-old Californian was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in the incident.
In 2020, a Tennessee man died of a heart attack in a crash incident, and the crush attacks resulted in numerous cases of property damage.
Covering their tracks
According to Argast, the evolution of technology makes it increasingly easy for criminals to hide their identities.
He mentions the so-called “identity theft” tools that allow a malicious actor to present a fake number when making a call – something that any Canadian who has received a fraudulent call from the CRA over the years. the last few years will be familiar.
“They are spoofing a local number and unfortunately it is difficult for emergency services to distinguish that number,” he said.
Criminals were also able to use voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) to hide their identities, he said.
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“Like many cyberattacks, it is quite difficult to determine the source of the attacks,” he said.
“It’s possible, depending on the right technology and the types of forensic investigations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the police will be successful in this case if the assailant has managed to hide his fingerprints.”
Despite the challenges, police in Canada have managed to track down several suspected fags.
In 2014, four Canadian teens were charged with crash incidents, including one from Coquitlam who reported false plans for a mass shooting in Florida.
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In March, a Saksatoon teenager was arrested for suspected crash activity in Canada and the United States, and last month a Manitoba teenager was arrested for similar threats in North Carolina.
If Friday’s attack was in line with these previous Canadian incidents, Lvovsky said he believed Burnaby RCMP would have an easier time catching the culprit.
“If it’s a teenager trying to prank someone, I think it would be pretty easy,” he said. “That’s what happened in 2014 with the Canadian teenager. He was bragging about it on Twitter.
Lvovsky had a message for anyone thinking of a copy attack.
“It’s a bad thing to do and people can get hurt,” he said.
“If you think you want to prank someone, find another way. Do not call the emergency services, this is a terrible way to do it and you will probably get caught.
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