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The New Vigilantism – #Swatting

As previously discussed on our blog, Doxxing is the illegal online harassment act of sharing an individual's personal or identifiable information (such as name, address, social security number etc.) online without their consent. (For more information see our previous posts of “Doxxing - An Online Phenomenon” and “#Gamergate - Downfall of Cybersecurity”).

This internet-based attack has gathered a vicious, viral momentum with two main purposes: to intimidate by compromising privacy, security standards and often safety, and providing an avenue for future harassers to use by exposing as much information about an individual as possible. People from gamers to government officials have been targets of doxxing, with many predicting attacks to skyrocket with the amount of content shared on the internet. Many other forms of harassment and abuse have stemmed from the spin-off attacks of Doxxing - such as Swatting.

Swatting is a relatively recently coined term deriving from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics).  Using a doxxing victim's harvested and distributed information, hackers and attackers engage in a variety of hoaxes known as “Swatting”. These attacks vary from small to large scale and include:

  • deployment of bomb squads, SWAT units, police units
  • targeted evacuation of schools and businesses
  • caller ID spoofing
  • prank calls
  • Social Engineering
  • mass ordering pizzas to an address

Victims can vary from celebrities, to government officials, police departments, gamers and individuals openly opposing internet vigilantism.


Links to Terrorism

Some have labelled the hoax calls to officials and emergency services as timely efforts to waste emergency resources, social disruption and efforts to cause harm to targeted individuals - linking them to terrorist-like, extremist agendas.


Legal Implications

As discussed in our previous posts, whilst doxxing itself is not directly punible, the repercussions of sharing information and exploiting someone’s privacy can result in chargeable offences such as harassment, defamation, identity theft, fraud - and swatting. As victims should document the acts of doxxing by creating court-ready social media evidence with web capture tools such as WebPreserver, this can help support the chargeable spinoff offence of Swatting.


United States

In the United States, Swatters can be prosecuted through an array of federal criminal statutes, including:


Though harder to establish without proper Discovery and evidence, Canadian law can charge individuals with the following misdemeanours:

  • Uttering death threats.
  • Conveying false information with intent to alarm, public mischief.
  • Mischief to property.

How can WebPreserver help?
WebPreserver can capture, store, share and create legal evidence from content placed on the internet and social media networks. This innovative eDiscovery tool is essential for legal professionals, digital forensic scientists and law enforcement authorities. WebPreserver creates strong, authenticated content to ensure to admissibility of evidence, your case and protection against continuation of Cybercrime.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general and informative purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. Content on this blog is not intended to substitute the advice of a licensed attorney, as laws are subject to change and vary with time, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Content on this blog may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.

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