Expert says increase in technology could lead to more swatting calls

SHARONVILLE, Ohio — America’s fascination with having more technology available at your fingertips could be leading to something many never expected.

“Sadly all this technology that brings all this convenience and benefit to society can be used by bad people to do these kind of things,” cybersecurity expert Dave Hatter said.

Eight Ohio schools were swatted Friday, including Princeton High School. A 911 caller told dispatch an active shooter was inside the school and had injured 10 students.

“They came to our classroom. Next to our classroom. He opened fire on the students. 10 students got injured next to our classroom,” the 911 caller told dispatchers.

The problem? The whole thing was a hoax.

“You’d be shocked at the things they’re capable of doing not only from a technological standpoint, but they’re just despicable scum,” Hatter said. “The lowest form of scum you can imagine.”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in a statement whoever is involved in the hoax better be “ready for prison.”

“The threat of a school shooting is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Deters said. “I can’t imagine how scared these parents and kids were today. Orchestrating a hoax like this is beyond offensive. It is stupid and completely illegal. Innocent people and first responders could have easily been injured. Law enforcement will find out who did this . And when apprehended, they better be ready for prison.”

But Hatter believes due to the number of swatting calls that took place Friday, the culprit was likely someone calling from overseas.

“Unless these are people in the US that can be identified and prosecuted … if there aren’t really any consequences, why wouldn’t there be more?” hatter said. “Especially if it’s driven by an adversary of the United States who just wants to cause chaos, disruption, divisiveness in the US. Why wouldn’t there be more? It’s easy to do, hard to prevent.”

Hatter said the problem lies with how much society is reliant on technology.

“Society is so dependent on this digital technology. So much of it was designed at a time when no one could envision how it could be used like this,” he said.

With Friday’s incident, the call appeared to come from inside Princeton High School. The caller told dispatchers his number included a California area code.

Hatter said hackers who know what they’re doing can become nearly untraceable. He said a hacker can ‘spoof’ a phone number, and then hack into a virtual private network (VPN) to make it appear that the number is coming from inside the school.

With smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, Hatter said there’s potential any device that students bring into a school, or that already exists within the school, can be hacked.

“The more IOT or smart devices you plug in, the more potential opening there are in the network and the armor,” Hatter said. “That’s again why this is so tricky. All these devices bring an amazing amount of convenience — make it possible to do stuff that you couldn’t do five years ago.

“Do they have some kind of antivirus on them? Have they been locked down so they’re harder to hack? Do they get updates? If you’re not installing updates on those devices you’re just waving a flag that says hey come hack me.

“What’s the police department going to do? Wait a minute, I better figure out if this thing is a swatting attempt or not. Of course not, so that’s why this is a difficult problem to solve,” Hatter said.

This type of swatting call could be difficult to stop in the future.

“Until … the underlying technology improves enough for where you could know the phone number is not the phone number, the place this says it’s coming from isn’t the place it’s coming from, then you throw in the deep fake stuff, I don’t know how you could stop that,” Hatter said.

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