16-year-old Canadian boy arrested for over 30 swattings, bomb threats

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Security threats

SWAT team. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.In March 2013, US computer security reporter Brian Krebs was swatted.

Swatting - a term that derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) - is the practice of falsely reporting an emergency, as a prank or as revenge against someone, resulting in the dispatch of emergency services. In Krebs's case, that meant armed law enforcement at his door.

Krebs' persecutor had, in fact, spoofed an emergency call to make it appear that it had come from the journalist's own phone.

The result: about half a dozen squad cars, lights flashing, surrounding Krebs's front door, local police leaning over their cars and pointing guns at him.

That day, the police in his town learned what swatting is.

Good thing, because Krebs was again targeted with fraudulent emergency calls on 10 April 2013, and then yet again last week, on 7 May.

On Krebs's side, the now-savvy police simply called to make sure all was OK.

Things were much different on the other end of the fake emergency calls, though.

As Krebs writes, his alleged tormentor du jour, a Twitter user with the handle @ProbablyOnion2, was leaving a long trail documenting his alleged escapades.

For example, his steady Twitter stream included offers to SWAT for money:

Twitter screenshot - swat requests

Put in your swat requests now.

...along with "nyah-nyah" messages for the FBI:

Twitter screenshot - FBI taunt

The investigation is far from over" - FBI Come on baby, if you think you got all the answers, I'm sitting here, waiting.

...and taunting messages to Krebs, asking him how his door was:

Twitter screenshot - Krebs taunt

@ProbablyOnion2: @briankrebs how's your door?

@briankrebs: @ProbablyOnion2 door's fine, Curtis. But I'm guessing yours won't be soon. Nice opsec!

...to which Krebs replied with a reference to @ProbablyOnion's "nice opsec," given that @ProbablyOnion's real identity had apparently just been identified in a document leaked onto Pastebin (which Krebs reposted).

Neither the Ottawa Police Service nor the FBI have yet named the underaged male - a 16-year-old from Ottawa - whom they arrested on Thursday.

Canadian police arrested the boy, a suspect they've linked to at least 30 swatting attacks against schools in North America which led to lockdowns or evacuations.

Some of the fake emergency calls involved bomb threats, hostage-taking, or the threat of an active shooter.

The teenager has been charged with 60 criminal offenses, including public mischief, mischief to property, uttering death threats, and conveying false info with intent to alarm.

As Krebs notes, the FBI estimates that each swatting incident costs law enforcement, on average, about $10,000.

But it's not the money that worries them the most. Rather, it's the possibility that one day, a swatting incident could turn deadly.

Kevin Kolbye, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas office, which headed up the first federal swatting case in 2007, described for ABC News how a dangerous level of adrenalin flows in these situations:

[SWAT officers] are responding to a hostage or a possible homicide situation. They are very aware that they are going into a very dangerous situation. They are in a heightened state, the safety's off and their finger is close to the trigger.

Swatting is typically done by kids who think it's fun.

It's unfortunate that this type of young person has been given access to a computer - a device that, when used in this fashion, is, almost literally, like letting a child play with a loaded gun.

Image of SWAT team courtesy of Shutterstock.

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10 Responses to 16-year-old Canadian boy arrested for over 30 swattings, bomb threats

  1. artfrankmiami · 473 days ago

    Nice, detailed, article.

  2. Sayville Library · 473 days ago

    I teach computers to seniors, and I always hear, "my grandson is a computer genius." Not until he understands he how TCP/IP and the Internet work.

  3. ShAsadAhmad · 473 days ago

    What a fool!! NO .. it's not funny to do crap like this at all!! Goes to prove how ignorant & mentally impaired one is and clearly hasn't had decent upbringing!
    Such trash should be put away in solitary confinement for a decade so that they have ample of time to rethink about what they did!

  4. kr · 473 days ago

    The parents and education system must also teach these kids what the effect of something like this is. Kids have been pranksters forever, it is the technology that is making it more widespread and from much broader vectors. My young child learned at 3 1/2 about calling 911, but unless I teach my child what that activity really means, there is no true understanding. If kids are educated on the full story, most probably will think twice about doing that, I know that was the case for me and the majority of my friends. It is also likely that the kids parents don't even know what spoofing is or understand enough to teach around it, that is the challenge with how fast technology changes now. Still goes back to the basics of teaching cause and effect, consequences for actions.

    Now maybe this kid is a bad apple, or maybe he is just a prankster who thinks it is funny and has no idea of the actual consequences.. I recall being a teenager, and there was a lot of arrogance and cockiness, which could have shown as malice if it were using the technology of today.

    • Reader · 473 days ago

      The 16 year old psychopath knows exactly what it (yes, it) is doing and knows full well the consequences of its actions. It enjoys its acts of sadism. Psychopaths are aware of what they do and how they affect others; they just don't care. Once caught, they are good actors.

      Parents should on occasion say no to their children rather than allow the latter to do or have whatever they want — especially when said children are known to violate the boundaries and rights of others. Demanding children can become self-entitled adults.

  5. lyn · 473 days ago

    Damn... he is making Canada look bad...

  6. Gray · 473 days ago

    Stupid kid. Glad he was caught without any of his little "games" turning deadly.

  7. gerrymar · 472 days ago

    Send the bill to his parents.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.