Police Militarization meets Hacker Culture: Swatting

Police Militarization meets Hacker Culture: Swatting


3… 2… 1… go! Police! Search warrant! Police! I’m right… left. I got left. (shouting) Gimme two, gimme two Good raid (shouting) All clear up here, clear left – (shouting) Clear small, we’re coming out
– Move, move, move As you can see it’s pretty intense. You would not wanna be on the opposite side of that door when these guys were coming through. Okay, what are your demands? Police are trained to respond to every call with urgency but when the caller’s lying, like in the 9-1-1 recording we just heard, law enforcement becomes a pawn in a dangerous and expensive hoax “Swatting” relies on simple and widely available technology to disguise a caller’s identity Disposable cell phones, internet call services, and even number disguising apps make it increasingly difficult for police to track down these pranksters Somerset is one of the wealthiest counties in the US It has great schools, a low crime rate, and like a growing number of police forces through the country, a souped-up special weapons and tactics force, or SWAT team, just in case Beginning with the War on Drugs and after national tragedies like Columbine and 9/11, The US has seen a surge in the militarization and funding of SWAT teams, including counties large and small Over the last decade, the Department of Homeland Security alone has given away 35 billion dollars in grants to state and local police We went to spend the day with the Somerset County SWAT team at their emergency services training academy to see where that money was going – Sergeant: (shouting) For the headshot, you’re looking for eyes and nose, that’s your target areas Ciempola: We apply for every grant. If there’s a grant and we can get money for it, we’ll apply for it So, we apply for Homeland Security money, we’ll show you the Lenco BEAR, our armored assault rescue vehicle, infared cameras, and pole cameras and shields and stuff like that, we get a lot of that with grant money Ciempola: The BEAR we use on every call out
Gold: Really?
Ciempola: The BEAR, yes, I think it stands for Ballistic Engineering Assault Rescue vehicle, Lenco company up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts designs it There is it right there Gold: Damn
Ciempola: That’s roughly a $400,000 machine we never would have been able to make the purchase if we didn’t apply for Homeland Security money I think, in the area of the high 50s is one cost and again it was purchased through grant money Gold: What do we use this for? Is this sort of, to uh- you know, for a bomb situation, for a hazard situation? Ciempola: It could be for, right, it could be there’s a threat of a bomb, could be for exposure to chemicals, or some sort of gas that could hurt us and it could be just because somebody may want to shoot at us and we absolutely know they want to shoot at us, so we can send this in and it could deal with the situation and we don’t expose our officers to undue risk Twenty years ago, we were running around with RadioShack walkie talkies because that’s all we could afford There was no money for this type of operation around here Gold: You say you just it last year, have you had to use it for any intense situations yet or no? Ciempola: Not really, not yet, yeah yeah nothing big (voice off camera) Nothing major. Gold, narrating: Aside from Homeland Security grants that encourage local police departments to buy military-grade hardware for their own SWAT units, the US goverment has for years given away this technology for free to combat the War on Drugs and domestic terrorism Gold to Ciempola: I’m amazed that the kits here, man, they are no joke, like they’re serious stuff Gold, narrating: A US Department of Defense program often called the Pentagon Pipeline has redistributed billions of dollars worth of surplus military gear over the last two decades to local police forces much of it repurposed from wars overseas Sergeant, shouting: Alright, so the next course of fire is going to be two in the upper chest then one in the head two in the upper chest, one in the head Gold: We’ve seen a lot of heavily armed members of the SWAT team you can they are kitted out and they look like they’re ready for war So, it’s pretty reassuring if you’re going to be involved in violent confrontation, I’m sure, in the surrounding area, but it doesn’t sound like there are too many violent confrontations in Somerset County SWAT teams were originally formed to handle violent civil unrest, shootouts, and hostage rescues (shouting) Let me see your hands!
Don’t move! (screaming) But with increased access to power military equipment, the US has seen a dramatic rise in the use of these tactics for low-risk warrants and nonviolent drug raids as well (crying) Mommy, mommy It’s estimated the number of raids conducted by SWAT teams has gone from 3,000 a year in the 1980s to over 50,000 raids a year today (shouting) Police, search warrant! We can’t be sure as most states don’t even disclose the frequency with which they deploy these forces (shouting) Don’t move, don’t move! (gunshots) This lack of transparency is currently under investigation by the ACLU, which is trying to find out how often police use war tactics and weaponry in American neighborhoods and to what extend federal funding is incentivizing this trend All a “swatter” needs is a way to hide their phone number, a victim’s address, and a crazy story to tell the police We’re at NYU school of Computer Science and Engineering to find out just how easy that is Justin Cappos is a professor of computer science and engineering at NYU and an expert in cyber security So we’ve got 12 year-olds that are basically pulling off this swatting maneuver How easy is it to do this? In terms of technical knowledge, there isn’t a substantial amount of information someone needs to have they just sort of need to stumble to the right parts of the internet, dark sides of the internet and get the rights sorts of tools and then they can do this rather easily Is there a type in the hacking community that people sort of point out as the cliched person that does this sort of swatting thing? Yes, a lot of times it’s people who are rather young who maybe don’t have the same sort of mental and emotional development that many of us get later in life and so they kind of don’t know the lines between right and wrong quite as well, so it’s often we in the hacker community term “script kiddies” that do this kind of stuff so they know only a few things, they know a few sites they’ve been to, and they’ve kind of learned, hey this is a fun little thing I can try to do and they’re kind of unaware of the consequences of sending, you know, 30 or so heavily armed police officers to someone’s house to break down the door In Los Angeles, it’s known as “swatting” and it’s become an alarming trend Swatting pranks have been used on some of the biggest names in Hollywood Gold, narrating: Swatting began to attract national media attention when celebrities became victims Newscaster: There is breaking news happening at the Kardashian house Another newscaster: … and it’s happening more and more Last week, Rihanna and Sean Combs were targeted before them, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, and Miley Cyrus all fake incidents prompting massive responses Gold: Aside from sending out a bunch of well-armed into innocent people’s homes, swatting can cost tens of thousands of dollars a fact not lost on California State Senator Ted Lieu, a victim of swatting himself I was at a meet at Orange County and I got a call in my cell phone from a police officer in Torrance who said, you know, “is this Ted Lieu?” and I said “yes” and he said, “where are you?” and I said, “I’m in Orange County” and he goes “okay, so you didn’t just kill your wife in your home?” and I said “no I did not” and he said “well we got a call that you did and we’re sending multiple police cars to your home right now” I hung up and tried calling my wife letting her know that this was happening and then I couldn’t reach her, but by that time, the police force had already showed up and there were people with rifles going through our home, you had fire trucks, you have paramedics, it was a very large response but she also knew I was carrying a bill on swatting so I think part of her was thinking I wonder if this is related to that and someone decided to, you know, swat our house Gold: Celebrity swatting occurred with such frequency in California that the LAPD stopped reporting these incidents for fear of copycats Senator Lieu introduced legislation this year making swatters liable for the full cost of fake SWAT team routes which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars Lieu: The reason swatting calls result in massive police responses is because the 9-1-1 operator often cannot tell it’s real or fake and they have to assume it’s real Swatting is dangerous in a number of ways, first of all it drains law enforcement and firefighter resources and so they’re responding to one swatting caller maybe more than one that means it can’t be responding to real emergencies It’s also dangerous because the actual incident is very tense for people who respond they’re under an impression people are dying at that home or whatever their place is and imagine if it’s dark at night and they all show up with their guns drawn, you could see a miscommunication result in death or injury very easily Gold: Despite the national attention, celebrities are not the only victims of swatting Far more often, it’s regular families So we’re in Long Beach, Long Island right now, where in April, Jose Castillo and his family were swatted after Jose’s little brother beat someone in a Call of Duty video game and he prank called the police Now, half the town’s police force, SWAT team, helicopter, medical personnel all showed up at Jose’s doorstep because they were told that his little brother killed Jose and his mother We’re going to go talk to Jose and see how it feels on the other side of swatting This is a high stakes, high danger prank Celebrity homes have been hit by it and now some innocent victims in the news in suburban New York inside their own home My little brother was playing his XBOX 360 or whichever it was he was using he told me there was someone on the other side of the microphone, you know, in a party chat telling him that he was going to call the police, he’s going to SWAT him and Gold: He used the term swatting? Castillo: Yeah, he used the term swatting, he was like, I’m gonna SWAT you and my little brother was like, “Jose, someone is telling me he’s going to SWAT me” and I told him, “get off the game” Gold: Jose went out and returned a couple of hours later to find his street closed off and his house surrounded by police and emergency responders So what were you seeing, you were seeing just like police all in this area?
Castillo: Yeah, I thought it was a fire or something, you know, maybe my neighbor’s house and then I see my mom getting carried away by two police officers I just saw, I approached the first officer that led me through the firmer and I asked him, “what is going on?” he told me, “someone inside of the red house shot and killed his mother and brother” I’m like, “what are you talking about?”, you know, I’m like “what are you talking about, how can anybody be dead in the house, there’s only 3 people who live there and it’s me, my mom, and my little brother and I’m right here and she’s right over there” so I’m sitting there like, “can I speak to your supervisor or something, can I speak to someone that could like listen to me right now?” and then, you know So at this point you’re talking to the officers, you’re trying to figure out what’s happening, at what point do you kind, does it kind of click in your head that maybe this is related to that threat you got earlier? Once I saw the SWAT team come in, actually getting ready, putting on all their uniforms, and at this point my little brother’s still inside the house and he doesn’t know what’s going on and I kept telling the police, “look I seen this in news, this is a joke” and you know
Gold: Nothing? And no matter what they can’t stop the process, like I don’t understand? Yeah, what they told us is they have to make sure that there’s nothing going on so they actually had to go in and I wish they would have listened to us a little more, but you know, they have to do what they have to do Do you think your little brother’s going to play Call of Duty again after this? No, never (laughs) (laughs) He’s done Online video games are just one of the means by which swatters can easily get personal information used to prank their victims Once obtained, it’s even easier to place calls anonymously What about in terms of law enforcement actually catching the people that are doing this? You see every now and then, you know, a 16 year-old will get busted here or a 15 year-old there They’re having a really hard time catching these people, huh? They do have a hard time catching people in general with it because people who have been doing this now they sort of know, well, the way we need to do it is we need to disguise where this call’s coming from The hacker economy is very much that, an economy, and so there are people there who are willing to sell kind of pre-built malware and pre-built boxes that do certain malicious things that really you only have to click a box or you download software and click a button and it’s ready to go And this is just sort of actually a small front in this battle between good hackers, bad hackers, law enforcement that just doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to stop It’s very difficult to especially for the good guys, because if you’re doing defense you have to kind of have to protect everything and you have to protect it against sort of all possible ways somebody can get in If you’re an attacker, then you just have to find one thing that they’ve kind of forgotten about or maybe multiple things and find a way to chain them together into what you want to do Despite the abundant resources for tactical gear, the real problem facing law enforcement is that most departments don’t have experts trained in cybersecurity to help police analyze and track down fraudulent 9-1-1 calls There’s a potential now for increase in false reports and I’m sure every time you guys get these calls you’re wired up, you’re good to go, do you think if there’s a lot of these, is it gonna change how you guys respond to certain calls? I think our response protocol is gonna have to be tightened up, tweaked a little bit, I’m hoping maybe legislation on either the state or national level and focusing on this from an investigative and prosecutorial standpoint will help to abate it and cause it to stop, but if it doesn’t, yeah, we’re certainly gonna have to look at the way we respond, the way we dispatch our team, maybe a little closer analysis of the initial call when it comes in to make sure it’s a real call, they’re gonna have to really analyze that call and maybe put devices in place to say Is this a real job or is this a case of swatting, which I hope stops You know, you guys are like a machine, like we’ve seen the way you guys move, the way you fire, everyone here is trained top-notch some people might look at this and look at Somerset County and say is all of this necessary? I mean you guys have these robots and these tanks and whateverand like top notch kits and they might look at it and say do we really need this in suburban New Jersey, how would you address those people? I would ask somebody that suffered a loss because of not having this service and I would focus on them and ask them to answer that question I would say, well, SWAT team wasn’t available when you really needed or a police officer wasn’t available when you needed or an ambulance didn’t get there when you really needed and what happened and how does that make you feel? and if your child was in a school that was suddenly under attack by some random actors do you want them coming to help your kid or do you want no one to show up? That’s what I would say to them In an age where a teenager with a cellphone can incite chaos there was no doubt authorities need to re-examine their strategy in combating technology with brute force Who know what could happen if people start using these methods with more malicious intentions than just pranks

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “Police Militarization meets Hacker Culture: Swatting

  1. Dude says "I hope it stops." because that juiced up police force can't stop a pissed off teenager with a laptop and a cellphone

  2. "Non violent drug raids" You do realize drug dealers are notorious for carrying illegal firearms and using them, right? Your left-wing anti-police bias is showing as usual, Vice.

  3. The sheep can’t tell the difference between the dog and the wolf, that’s what makes them afraid of the dog. They’re both armed with sharp teeth and claws.
    Keep living life with your head down chewing the grass.
    Keep being ignorant and believe that the wolf will never come for you.
    And when the wolf arrives, bleat and cry for the dog to come rescue you.

    It’s sad to say that a large portion of our community have become sheep.

  4. a lot of this equipment is unnecessary , what they are doing is over kill in most cases, these swat teams are waging war against the American. people.

  5. Look at us were special forces. We have 20 dudes in full battel rattle on 1 dude we're special..
    Swat is supposed to save life's not be wanna be operaters

  6. Even though somerset county has not encountered major problems even with the rise of federal funding. It could be argued that it is a deterrent to these criminals to think twice before shooting up a school or even swatting.

  7. Hope the ACLU get to the root of this problem cause this is the American governments setting up for dictatorship. I just can believe how dense in the head American people can be to let this happen. if the people get United like the US is suppose to be we can defeat this mass destruction. They are training the guys to hate even the citizens that abide by the law and kill them I would love for them to legalize drugs period and let the medical professional dish it out. Bet those killer militarized supposed to be human but ain't wouldn't have a job and I would love it. The drug dealers wouldn't have a job either.

  8. Actually where I'm at they use only 10 per house because gun fight with police rather hard to come by

  9. this is why i have have 2 metal bars across my door. aint nobody taking that door down. They gonna have to knock the whole wall down. IN that time ill get ready for what comes through if they take the whole door and frame down which i doubt

  10. im glad we have militias the more days pass the more i have the feeling to turn to one of these militias might join one of them one of these days, i know a few friends in who are part but this is not okay. 5:49

  11. Sad story, local police everywhere are militarizing, younger people don't notice just like they haven't remember to time where there isn't camera surveillance. Why does our local police need to be militarized? Super clear dot-dot…

  12. I remember when cops were cops and soldiers were soldiers. I suppose these guys are being prepared to protect our prescious wealthy from the starving masses.

  13. And ever since that fucking patriot act bulshit more Americans have died than fucking foreign enemies thank you bush

  14. The problem isn't just hackers making false reports (which is a crime of course), it's the militarization of our police. People often get hurt or killed when swatting happens, but it's not the hacker that's literally pulling the trigger, it's the adrenaline-soaked, heavily-armed police. When the cops realize the call was a false report, they will try to ID and charge the caller – with murder if necessary. But (absent Jesus Christ showing up) dead people can't be brought back to life. So the police need to demilitarize; not go in guns blazing. They need to assess before going "full breach" into someone's home or workplace.

  15. I personally don't see the point of turning this kind of warfare loose on the American people. I would better understand if the law enforcement was being trained as a secondary or fallback force against an envading army but against Marge next door? No! Is this where we really want to go? This will only serve to drive a wedge between citizens and law enforcement.

  16. I wish cops didn’t have military equipment! They could’ve arrested the marathon bombers without armored police!

  17. SO THEY ARE FIGHTING 12 YEAR OLDS? THEY MADE A SWATTING ISSUE ONCE CELEBRITIES WERE BEING PRANKED NOR ANY CELEBRITIES WERE SHOT BY POLICE OFFICERS? SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.

  18. More pot smoking antifa basement dwelling nazis. Spoiled demorat brats that never had their little psycho babble asses whipped by their deadbeat welfare parents!

  19. Locked up prisoners make their own rules and pretty much follow them . The United police states of America law enforcement has freedom but don't follow the rules at all still charge and easy walk over or In bed with public pretender.
    Which one sounds like a better class of people.

  20. Give people guns to defend themselves. (fact: more guns=less crime)
    That's what the second amendment is for (not to mention preventing tyranny).

    Collectivism is wrong. E Pluribus Unum.
    If things get that bad, bring in the US Military and/or National Guard, that's what they're for.
    I don't want a police state. Police (with the exception of Sheriffs and US Marshals) are just a bunch of over glorified "school hall monitors" (sound familiar academia? thanks for indoctrinating them into believing they are the authority); they are statists. Have you ever seen a crossing guard at an elementary school? Yeah, stalinist russia, communist training, at it's best (indoctrination).
    People think that police are the authorities, they are merely servants (more indoctrination).
    History repeats itself.

    Some States are already exploiting the public, resist them and do not consent (Commiefornia).
    Absolute power, corrupts absolute.
    If you don't agree, you're not American and you know not the truth.

    If there's Corpus Delicti in your behavior, you deserve to be locked up/executed (depending on how stupid/ignorant you are).
    If you exhibit Corpus Delicti even under the color of law, you're not American and deserve the same and you know it.

    I AM AMERICAN !
    I AM FREE !
    are you?

    (filthyrags, 2019)

  21. Law en FORCE ment ?
    What laws? States laws?
    What happened to the Constitution? (Article VI; Clause II)
    California doesn't give a shit about the Constitution or America and especially not you.

  22. can you please stop conflating "hacker culture" with gamer / 4chan culture? thanks, they may have overlap but they are not the same. I would say that generally speaking those are the two subcultures that are much more responsible for this obnoxious phenomenon.

  23. I wish every police response was a swat response. Why wouldn't you want that and the ACLU has an agenda that is evil and misrepresented. Vice is a part of the problem. OK, show me children crying as if the SWAT is the reason. Negative, criminal minded individuals that have impulsive and self serving behaviors sacrificing the health and safety of their children for nefarious purposes is the problem. Not the police response. Vice should be forced to have these criminals come live in their homes, cooking meth and conducting crime on their lands.

  24. Militarizing local police departments and training them for war is concerning. If you think homeland security Or giving this money away only to protect local communities from hostage situations and ask of random violence you got to be kidding yourself. They are getting ready for something big against the American people

  25. Why are we sending all this equipment to upscale suburban towns? If anything they should be shipping the shit to the inner cities. The fact that they’re sending it all over the country is worrisome

  26. If you can't trace the number back to the residence or it's overriding the caller ID system that 911 has then it should be viewed as suspect. I mean who blocks a call to 911? They know this shit is happening so there shouldn't be any reason that they can't deploy counter measures.

  27. 4 out of every 10 of those officers beats their wives and kids. The other 6 stay in silent complacency. Remember that when you feel bad for some of these "men"

  28. I had a new Middle Eastern landlord from Toronto do this to me because he wanted me out without properly evicting me. Pissed off Local PD so much. Legal Aid wouldn't help because he was a Muslim. Never got reported other than an event number because I wasn't home at the time and no one got hurt. The entire riot squad shields and all showed up. Earlier that morning I was followed and I knew/felt something was off. The next day I was informed by an officer of the event and then my neighbors slowly filled me in on the rest of the details. Windsor Ont. April 28, 2017.

  29. The sad truth is that VICE should not be called a news organization. The content that is putout is way overly biased and agenda-driven rather than fact driven. The editing done in a way to push an agenda "two in the head boys!" When someone not familiar with training drills etc hears that they will be terrified but the truth is that they are not training headshots but rather target acquisition. Saying they are ready for war is not only a blatantly ignorant, it is a dishonor to the servicepeople that actually went to war. Saying SWAT is used for "non-violent drug arrests" is intentionally bending the truth since any half decent investigator would have explored and known that it's used for raiding houses where they simply don't know if they are walking into a storm of bullets or not. Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting form of journalism and anyone that is a willing coconspirator should be ashamed.

  30. It’s sad seeing those cops act and dress like there in the military. There not so they shouldn’t dress like it or act like it.

  31. get this: one of the main reasons i left the u s 4&1/2yrs ago was, assholes calling the police on me several times, for zero; i get ticketed, BS warning, etc; swatting, serves The System right

  32. I thought in the America The government is not supposed to use military force on US soil to me just because you called them police don’t mean they’re not military when they have military weapons and vehicles but they don’t have the training

  33. After you see a kid go in to a child molestar house swat him or rapists not normal people that is just plain out stupid

  34. SWAT teams are hammers in search of a Nail. Police Departments have notoriously low quality aims as well as overpowered weaponry. The potential for catastrophy is not relational. Police, Prison industrial complex and DAs cost Counties around 52% of their Budgets. This is not how to reduce Crime. Availability of Abortions-on-demand has reduced the number of unwanted children with the resulting rollback of violent criminality as the post 1972 (Roe vs Wade) births mature.

  35. That money should go to health care and education!! These guys dont need a 400k truck when the crime rate is low as hell. They are just dealing with regular, low risk situation, why do they need all that stuff?

  36. Why do all that just for 30k damm just go ask the bank for a loan…guy on the 911 caller…😂😂

  37. Yea, the #USArmy and #HomelandSecurity should start considering these #gamers 🎮 who call in #swatting to be #homegrownterrorism. They need to be spending time going after the #dispensaries in #siliconvalley because they're the ones working with the #Mexicandrugcartel for smuggling 😂🤣😂

  38. A 911 call is technically third person hearsay.
    Third person hearsay is not allowed in any court room in this country.
    I was the victim of a false 911 call.
    Thank God the cops knew the rotten teeth tweeker that made the call.
    I was lucky that day.

  39. It's not a prank. It's attempted murder with police. Swatters should be charged with the death penalty and if underage, they should serve 25 to life and be required to register as misusers of the 911 system. Honestly, someone who does this stuff to innocent people shouldn't be on the planet.

  40. The biggest thing people don't understand is most of the military equipment police get are very inexpensive, if there is any cost, and often is as stated subsidized by grants. It's not local tax payers paying for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in equipment. And yeah, pretty much all of these places will never need them for their intended purpose. But if you were involved in a situation where it was needed, you'd be thankful it was there and not some young cops with pistols and light if any body armour against an AK-47 wielding maniac

  41. It seems, even with all the cloacking of caller's identities going on, that there are signs still if it's a prank call. Like if the supposed hostage taker is asking for 30.000 together with a helicopterride to the Mexican border as his condition, or he'll start shooting people. This is a prank, I tell you, or it's a deeply depressed person craving attention and who have no mind of actually start shooting anyone.

  42. As long as civilians can be as heavily armed or better then I don't care what kinda gear they have. The power belongs to the people know your place public servants!

  43. "The ACLU is trying to figure out how much the police use war tactics and weaponry."

    You mean efficient ways to get the job done and stay alive in hostile environments? Didn't know there was a more PC way to handle a firefight.

  44. once again police only show up after the fact you need to protect your self and not rely on them because they do not have the advantage of being there first only you and the threat

  45. Didn't that Asian senator get indicted for illegal weapons violations??? I believe he was obtaining military grade weapons for Chinese mafia.

  46. 1:38 "national tragedy of 9/11" … you mean the disgusting inside job to justify another war for fuel and control of middle east? It's funny how they are still trying to force us to believe it was actually act of terrorism despite sooo much evidence against that :))

  47. 2212 n Graham st. Indianapolis Indiana. Needs this because they breaking into everyone's houses a d selling drugs

  48. And when people ask why we need the 2nd ammendment. This is why. We have our government arming up. To attack it's own population. Its gonna get worse. Our government isn't supposed to have the ultimate power

  49. The thing is anyone can call in a threat like a disgruntled video game player get so butt hurt over a game calling the police the opposing player 9 out of 10 get killed because of it they call in a fake threat

  50. Really need some good hackers out there to say this enough is enough with these fake 9-1-1 calls to put a stop to this lot of people's lives getting getting ruined because if not suffering a loss and their family if anyone that's a good hacker to stand up what's right and put a stop to it

  51. Same type of accidental shooting could happen with one officer showing up vs. Swat, when brats call in false threats.

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