Imagine you’re fully immersed in an online match, trying to destroy the enemy’s camp. When all of a sudden you end up having your front door kicked in by a SWAT team. And there lies you; a confused human in desperate need of a fresh pair of undies. Your online beef might have taken a wrong turn. But luckily there are some precautions you can take to insure that it doesn’t happen to you.
While ‘Swatting’ is rare, it can happen so we want to give you some tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one of the most vicious and potentially life-threatening hacking attacks you can face in the online world of gaming.
What is Swatting?
Swatting is a form of harassments that can have serious consequences. Swatters will use some kind of personal information about you or your home to call in a fake violent crime. This false report then triggers the local SWAT team to raid that address hoping to thwart violence.
While some people in the gaming and streaming community may consider this a funny prank, it can cause serious repercussions for all parties involved.
How Swatting can turn deadly
In 2017, a dispute between Call of Duty players Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill ended tragically. Viner threatened Gaskill with swatting, but Gaskill gave a false address. The dispute ended when a SWAT team raided the home of an uninvolved person, Alex Finch, who unfortunately had his life taken when the authorities raided his home.
This is one of many cases where gaming disputes end in false reporting of a violent emergency situation and deceiving law enforcement into sending SWAT teams to a targeted person’s home address. Unfortunately, swatting is still on the rise. In 2011, there were around 400 cases in the US and it’s now increased significantly to more than 1000 cases in 2019.
How to protect yourself against Swatting
Avoid sharing personal information
A lot of gamers treat trash-talking as a way to discourage competitors. Even though, in most cases, it remains to be just a verbal engagement. But sometimes it can escalate into harassment and find its way out of the virtual world to wreak havoc in your offline life.
Thus, regardless of how close you are with your gaming buddies, bear in mind that you should always keep the details about your private life to yourself. For instance, names and physical addresses are crucial data for a would-be swatter. So be careful of how much personal information you’re revealing online to protect against swatting.
Shield your IP address
Your physical address isn’t the only one needing protection. You should keep an eye on your IP address as well. One of the most efficient ways of protecting your online activities further is to change your IP address. A VPN is an excellent tool that can replace your actual IP address with a virtual one and shield you while you’re surfing the web.
Use screen names that can’t be associated with you
Alongside protecting your personal information, harness your imagination and create a screen name that people won’t associate with you. Also, if you have accounts on several gaming platforms, make sure to create separate identities for each of them.
Even though there’s no fool-proof way of keeping you protected from all kinds of cyberattack, try to avoid giving out your personal information. Always be alert and start using encrypted tools to further protect your online activities.