There are many bad things that can happen to us online; from harassment, ridicule, to invasion of privacy. But, the worst things are those that happen in the digital world and impact us physically. Issues like swatting are not something that we can avoid simply by turning off our device, and it can even be fatal.
At best, the intervention of a police unit against an innocent person can be intimidating and very disturbing. However, in some cases, the police intervened too aggressively, which unfortunately led to a tragedy.
Ideally, you never want to be in danger of swatting. By hiding your identity and using best practices such as cyber hygiene, no one should know the address to send you to the police.
But, if you suffer from swatting, there are steps you should remember and take to minimize the damage as much as you can.
The Definition of Swatting
Swatting means calling in a Special Weapons and Tactics team to go to someone's home on the pretext that they are armed, dangerous, and aggressive. It can be done for a variety of reasons, from a bad joke to an outright attempt to harm or even want to kill someone.
How the police are contacted is not relevant. If someone gives your address with false information that you are armed and dangerous, they are trying to 'SWATTING' with you.
Also, if they express a clear and present danger, this will be legally counted as an attempt to hurt or kill you, and there will be serious criminal charges against that person.
Always keep calm
As in any other dangerous situation, the only way you can make the right decision is to stay calm.
In this scenario, you will have to lie on the floor with your hands on the back of your head. Listen to the orders of the police and do not try to argue in the least. You will have time to explain your case once no one points a gun at you.
How Are People Chosen?
The two most common ways someone could get your home address is by finding your private IP (go here to check ip address location) and trying to extrapolate it from the information, or by speaking it directly. The third most common cause is someone misleading you and sharing your private information with the world. The reasons why this happens vary, as does the type of people who commit the crime. This is why you can never be sure that you will not be affected just because you might not be the most common type of target. Finally, in many cases, the victim will be a random person living at the false address provided by someone else. This is the main reason why even those who practice cybersecurity and use an anonymous VPN should know what to do if this happens to them.
Hunters of Influence
Possibly the worst kind of people who swat is the same kind that stalks and harasses people both offline and online. Influence hunters are people who are willing to commit a variety of crimes to amuse their audience online.
In most cases, they will try to swat someone they know in their circles, such as a Twitch streamer, YouTube creator, or Instagram influencer.
Although they will often cite an altercation or 'dispute' with the victim, it will generally be completely online and it would not be an impossible thing to think that the victim would not even know who that person is.
This is the 'advanced' version of the internet troll and abuser. In many cases, those who know the location of an online streamer can use that to send them a SWAT team.
The action can be taken as a joke, or because they feel that "they were not respected in the broadcast."
If this sounds crazy, it's because it is.
Common and Current Stalkers
Instagram celebrities generally need to deal with the third most common type of swatter, the run-of-the-mill stalker.
Those who don't follow best practices when hiding where they live, or their private information online, will generally be targeted by stalkers, sometimes graduating as swatters.
Usually, once the perpetrator is prevented from harassing the victim in person, they can try to get revenge in this way. We have already shared our tips for safety and to remain anonymous to influencers here.
How to Prevent Swatting?
The best way to avoid swatting is to not have any private information available online. The reason to use a VPN is to protect this type of data from intruders and hackers, as well as to prevent the online companies they monitor from collecting such information.
To eliminate the possibility of being targeted directly, you must delete your location data from the internet. This means there are no photos of your house, do not mention the neighborhood or your home address on social media.
Also, you should avoid streaming so that the background can indicate your location. Ideally, this should include any view of the windows, as there were some incredible cases of weaponized autism to harm people.
Finally, if you are a victim, don't wait to press charges. This is a serious crime and perhaps if enough people are caught and convicted the practice will stop.
The threat of swatting is real and impacts some people more than others. This should in no way deter you from going online and having fun streaming and sharing images. But you must take precautions.
Remove your social networks from your information and use software to protect your devices from being hacked. All that combined will allow you to avoid experiencing swatting.