The FBI is tracking down a group of British hackers and gamers going by the name of “ISISGang;” the gang is believed to have used Skype to make terrorist threat “prank calls” that threatened schools, universities and conference centers with shootings and bombings.
“The eight-month campaign is thought to have cost American authorities more than $1m as emergency response teams, including armed SWAT units and bomb disposal squads, have been dispatched to incidents and neighborhoods placed in lockdown,” reported The Sunday Times. The calls have “included references to 9/11 and the killing of Iraqis by American military forces.” A man claiming to be 'Mohammed Jamile' called Sandy Hook Elementary School and said he was on his way to the school to “kill all your asses.”
21-year-old American Matthew Tollis is being prosecuted for allegedly being involved with the gang. Sadly what previously seemed like a stretch of law enforcement’s imagination, claiming that gamers plot evil over Xbox and PS3, may be true in this case. Breitbart reported that Tollis told the FBI that “the gang met as Xbox gamers, and originally called themselves TeAM CrucifiX or Die before changing their name in August. They had all been involved in 'swatting', which involves calling in fake threats in order to get Swat teams to converge on the target.”
Tollis, who was released on $100,000 bail, admitted to participating in six “swatting” calls. “An affidavit filed in federal court said that swatting was often perpetrated by Xbox gamers who occasionally hijacked people’s Twitter or Facebook accounts and then refuse to release them unless the victims make a swatting call.”
The three British hackers are known online as 'Verified', who also goes by ‘Spiky,’ 'Jordie', and 'Declaws.' "Tollis has given the FBI possible identities for the first two, claiming that 'Verified' lives in Scotland. 'Declaws' may also be Scottish – he has tweeted about visiting McDonalds in Arbroath, a port on the eastern coast of Scotland.”
“Jordie” claims to be an “aspiring rapper.” Tweeting under the name “GDKJordie,” he wrote: “I’ve more or less ruined my life at 16 because i [sic] thought it would be funny to swat a few cocky gamers and terrorize schools.” The tweet has since been deleted.
SWAT teams scaring the snot out of gamers
Meanwhile, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Except it’s live-streaming gamers armed with nothing more than virtual guns and not bad boys for whom SWAT teams have been coming. Regarding swatting gamers, Dr. John Grohol, a research psychologist who studies online behavior explained, “It’s like creating your own episode of Cops.”
The Associated Press reported on three different 911 calls that resulted in SWAT teams being dispatched. “One caller said he shot his co-workers at a Colorado video game company and had hostages. Another in Florida said her father was drunk, wielding a machine gun and threatening their family. A third caller on New York's Long Island claimed to have killed his mother and threatened to shoot first responders. In each case, SWAT teams dispatched to the scene found no violent criminals or wounded victims — only video game players sitting at their computers, the startled victims of a hoax.”
“Terrorists win,” Counter-Strike (CS:GO) announces about two minutes into a live-streaming video game broadcast while a real SWAT team with real guns had a gamer handcuffed on the floor. Swatting has been around for a long time, despite some media outlets claiming it started with celebrities. A prank is supposed to involve some form of “ha ha,” but are victims staring at fully armed SWAT teams who storm the scene believing it’s a do-or-die situation actually amused?
Jordan Mathewson, aka Kootra, was the victim of a call claiming he had hostages. As a member of The Creatures, a group that makes videos about gaming, he knew almost immediately what was happening; he said, “I think we’re getting swatted.” Later while describing the experience, Mathewson said, “I don't know what would drive somebody to do something like that, other than the fact that they get to kinda see the outcome live on the stream. They get to see all this go down right before their eyes and, you know, it's fun to them."
Some gamers "want to win at all costs, including jeopardizing someone's safety," claimed Dr. Kimberly Young, a psychologist at the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. "Real life becomes almost meaningless because they're so entrenched and involved in these games. Swatting, to them, seems like part of the game."
FBI cybercrime agents from Denver were called in to help find who really made the call about Mathewson, but making such as call could be done from anywhere in the world. Some pranksters use Skype, while others “spoof” the victim's mobile phone. A spoofed cell call was what security reporter Brian Krebs originally suspected after being swatted, yet he eventually determined the 911 call was “made via instant message chats using a relay service designed for hearing impaired and deaf callers security.” Krebs had previously warned the cops that he might become a victim of such a hoax, but it did nothing to help him when it happened.
Afterwards, Krebs said he “would like to see federal recognition of a task force or some kind of concerted response to these potentially deadly pranks.” Since the swatting trend seems to be increasingly popular, Krebs' suggestion seems like wisdom.