The act of swatting, or “SWAT”-ing, is a dangerous method of harassment that online attackers use to create problems for their victims. Whether you are someone suffering from this type of attack or you want to learn more about it, we’ll help you answer the question: “What is Swatting?”

What is Swatting?

Swatting involves direct harassment against another individual, typically within online gaming communities and other Internet spaces. Attackers typically view their actions as nothing more than a ‘prank,’ but the nature of swatting is extremely serious. These attacks involve creating a false emergency law enforcement call under false pretenses. Law enforcement then arrives at the home of the victim believing there is an emergency situation. 

This act is troubling for several reasons. First, these swatting attacks occupy time where officers could be responding to real emergencies. Second, this type of direct attack can put victims in real danger (as seen during a fatal swatting attack in 2017). Although there are serious legal penalties in place for those who commit swatting attacks, they can be difficult to address. This is mainly because most swatters hide their identities online and over the phone using software such as caller ID spoofing.

Who are the Victims of Swatting Attacks?

In recent years, most of the victims of swatting attacks have been members of online gaming communities. Games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, Counter Strike, and others draw in a large number of players. The huge user base makes these games a breeding ground for cyberattacks. In many cases, cybercriminals focus on implementing social engineering attacks or doxing their victims.

Celebrities, politicians, and even journalists have also been the victims of swatting attacks. These dangerous attacks can be carried out anonymously if the perpetrator has enough Internet knowledge. Usually, these attacks are done in order to disturb victims and disrupt their privacy. In other instances, swatting can be carried out to embarrass someone. Other times, a swatting attack may be launched to specifically put someone in danger of being arrested or even shot.

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How to Prevent Swatting Attacks

Although there is no true way to avoid a swatting attack, the best way to defend yourself online is to avoid giving away personal information. This is especially important for those who play online games. Sharing too much about yourself can reveal to attackers where you work, live, and other private data you may not want to share. Additionally, there are other ways for you to prevent swatting attacks, such as:

  • Use two-factor authentication on all of your online accounts.
  • Keep identifying information private.
  • Avoid suspicious direct messages from strangers.
  • Use a powerful VPN on all of your personal devices.
  • Have a username that doesn’t identify you in any way.
  • Create unique passwords for your different accounts.

Protecting yourself online is harder than ever before. That’s why it’s so important to use as many different methods of protection as possible. Having a reliable VPN on your computer, phone, router, and game console can help give you the online security that you need. 

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