Swatting 911 becomes life-threatening

Using a combination of VoIP and caller ID spoofing, crank-calling "swatters" have been generating armed police raids on innocent third parties. Upgrades to existing 911 systems should be able to prevent the practice, but the cost of a fix may not be in emergency call centers' budgets.

The Associated Press says 911 centers are "essentially defenseless" against a crank call from an Internet-based phone service without an upgrade to existing systems. Generators of the calls often randomly pick a number to spoof and manufacture a wild story to tell police. The results can be frightening, with police SWAT teams swarming down on unsuspecting households.

In a recent multi-state case tried in Dallas, eight people were charged with setting up 300 victims with swatting calls. Three ringleaders have been each sentenced to five years in prison, two others have been sentenced to two and a half years, and the others currently await trial and/or sentencing.

Complicating matters for arrests is the issue of tracing back swatting calls to an IP address - a matter that requires a search warrant served to an Internet provider.

Upgrades for authenticating calls from Internet-based sources could cost under $5,000, but call centers may not have the budget on hand to spend. However, further use of swatting may force the issue - an Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT team deployment from a bogus call cost the department $14,700 in time and resources.

For more:
- AP documents swatting headaches. Article via TechNewsWorld.

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