Security reporter tells Ars about hacked 911 call that sent SWAT team to his house



"Brian Krebs has always been a trailblazer among security reporters. His exposés completely shut down a California hosting service that coddled spammers and child pornographers and severely disrupted an organized crime syndicate known as Russian Business Network. More recently, his investigative journalism has followed the money to the people who sell malware exploit kits, illicitly procured credit reports, and denial-of-service services in underground forums.

Now, Krebs has achieved a decidedly more grim distinction. On Thursday, he became one of the first journalists to be on the receiving end of a vicious hoax that prompted a raid on his Northern Virginia home by a swarm of heavily armed police officers. The tactic, known as "swatting," has long been a favorite of depraved hackers. They use computers or special phone equipment to make emergency calls that appear to come from their target's phone number. When a 911 operator answers, they report a life-threatening, sometimes horrific crime in progress. Police, often armed with assault rifles, descend on the target's home, sometimes breaking down doors in the mistaken belief that their lives are on the line by gun-toting criminals carrying out home invasion robberies or drugged-out maniacs committing multiple homicides.

It was around 5pm. Krebs, 40, had just finished preparing his home for a small dinner party he had planned for later that evening. While vacuuming his home, his phone rang a few times, but he decided not to answer since he didn't want to get held up. When he finished, he realized there was still some tape at the entrance of his house where Christmas lights had been. He thought it made sense to remove it before his guests arrived.

"As soon as I open the front door, I hear this guy yelling at me, behind a squad car, pointing a pistol at me saying: 'Don't move. Put your hands up,'" Krebs, who is a long-time friend and colleague, told me. "The first thing I said was: 'You've got to be kidding me.'""


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