- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Hackers are hijacking internet-connected home cameras to add a new element to dangerous so-called “swatting” attacks, the FBI warned in a public service announcement released Tuesday.

Cybercriminals are using stolen log-in credentials to commandeer internet-connected smart devices so they can watch in real-time when police raid the homes of their swatting victims, the FBI explained.

Swatting is done by notifying police of a bogus emergency purportedly happening at a victim’s home, in turn causing authorities to hurriedly arrive expecting something warranting of a SWAT team being sent.

Called a “new phenomenon” by the FBI in 2008, swatting has since evolved to account for the proliferation of smart devices nowhere near as rampant as when it first became a problem, the new PSA said.

“Recently, offenders have been using victims’ smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks,” the FBI said in the PSA.

“As law enforcement responds to the residence, the offender watches the live stream footage and engages with the responding police through the camera and speakers,” the FBI said.

In some recent cases, the FBI added, video of the incidents are digitally captured by the culprit and subsequently circulated online.

Hackers are likely conducting the attacks using stolen log-in credentials, so people should accordingly protect their accounts using complex, unique passwords and two-factor authentication, the FBI said.

In likely the most notorious swatting incident, in 2017, a man was shot and killed outside his home in Wichita, Kansas, by police officers responding to a bogus report made by a stranger in California.

More recently, a Delaware man was sentenced last month to more than three years in prison over what the Department of Justice described as a string of swatting calls targeting victims throughout the U.S.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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