Safety Reminder on Threats
We are grateful for the assistance law enforcement has provided in assessing, identifying, and resolving threats.
Prank threats, regardless of the manner in which they are made, are crimes. They divert law enforcement’s time and attention from serving the needs of those in our community who really are experiencing an emergency and need help. Students who share prank posts and spread rumors about pranks can be just as accountable as the person who initiated it.
If a student, parent, or community member becomes aware of a threat, it is important to speak up. Immediately, do the following:
- Tell a responsible adult (parent, police officer, teacher, school administrator)
- Never repost or share the threat on social media or other online platforms
- Remember that time is of the essence – reporting the threat immediately allows the investigation of its validity to begin
- See Something, Say Something Sandy Hook Promise Resources
What is swatting?
Swatting is the practice of making hoaxes or prank calls to emergency services with a false claim of criminal activity. Swatting has been on the FBI's radar for more than a decade and making a false report can lead to arrest. A swatting attack could come from a wide range of individuals or groups, like online gamers, political groups, hackers, pranksters, and hate groups, for a variety of reasons.
How does swatting happen?
Most of the time, incidents of swatting will occur after someone has gained access to personal information. See below for some of the ways that a swatter can gain access to your information.
- Location services – On most devices and consoles, there is an option to use ‘Location services’ in which you allow the device or console to access your location in order to give you a more personalized experience while using it. Sometimes, when using the location services, your exact location will be visible to other users, making it easier for them to pinpoint your home address.
- Doxing – If someone’s information becomes public by the perpetrator posting the information on different social media platforms or by distributing the information to other people, they are at risk of falling victim to swatting.
- Sharing information – It can be easy to share information with others when using the internet. But by sharing your home address with someone you don’t know well enough, you are putting yourself and anyone else in your home at risk of being swatted.
- IP address – Everyone has their own IP (internet protocol) address. Your IP address is a number allocated to your device such as your laptop as part of your home or office computer network. This makes communication between computers over the internet possible. Although technically no one else should be able to see your IP address apart from you – people do have ways of finding out your IP address and once they have it, they can use it to find your physical address.
How can I prevent swatting?
- Privacy settings – Utilizing your privacy and security settings on all your devices and social media accounts will help to prevent swatters from gaining access to your information. You should regularly check all safety and security settings for your social media and email accounts periodically, especially when changing a computer or device that may have different security settings for passwords.
- Switch up your passwords – Change your passwords often and make them different for each email account and social media platform. This means that if one of your accounts ever gets compromised – a swatter won’t be able to access any other accounts using the same password, lowering the risk of them finding out personal information about you. This also means that you still maintain control of your ‘recovery accounts’ to reset your passwords.
- Turn on two-factor authentication – Most platforms now offer a two-factor authentication option for an added layer of security. If you turn this feature on, the person trying to gain access to your account will also need a code that only you can see via message to your cell phone or similar. You can find the option to enable ‘two-factor authentication’ within the settings on most popular platforms.
- Don’t overshare! – When using social media, try not to give out personal information unless you have to, especially to people you don’t know personally. It is also worth being mindful of the information offered within your account bio and seeing whether or not it can be combined with your posts over a period of time to give away a clearer picture of your location or identity.
We encourage parents to discuss with their children the severe consequences of participating in false claims or swatting.
Swatting Information by cybersmile.org
Top Tip for Parents on Protecting Personal Data