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FBI warns swatting attacks on owners of smart devices

2021-01-02 11:48

The Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) is warning owners of smart home devices with voice and video capabilities of ‘swatting’ attacks.

The FBI has recently issued an alert to warn owners of smart home devices with voice and video capabilities of so-called “swatting” attacks.

Swatting attacks consist of hoax calls made to emergency services, typically reporting an immediate threat to human life, to trigger an immediate response from law enforcement and the S.W.A.T. team to a specific location.

Unfortunately, the risk for the people associated with these operations is high due to the confusion on the part of homeowners or responding officers. In some cases, these actions have resulted in health-related or violent consequences and of course have a significant impact on the work of law enforcement that was not allocated on real emergencies.

Motivations behind swatting attacks could be revenge, harassment, or prank.

The attackers leverage spoofing technology to anonymize their own phone numbers and make the emergency call as coming from the victim’s phone number.

According to the alert issued by the FBI, the swatters have been hijacking smart devices such as video and audio capable home surveillance devices.

Threat actors likely take advantage of customers’ bad habit of re-using email passwords for their smart device. The offenders use stolen email passwords to log into the smart devices and take over them, is some cases they hijacked the live-stream camera and device speakers.

Swatters then call emergency services to report a crime at the victims’ residence urging the intervention of law enforcement.

“Recently, offenders have been using victims’ smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks. To gain access to the smart devices, offenders are likely taking advantage of customers who re-use their email passwords for their smart device. The offenders use stolen email passwords to log into the smart device and hijack features, including the live-stream camera and device speakers.” reads the alert issued by the FBI.

“They then call emergency services to report a crime at the victims’ residence. As law enforcement responds to the residence, the offender watches the live stream footage and engages with the responding police through the camera and speakers. In some cases, the offender also live streams the incident on shared online community platforms. The FBI is working with private sector partners who manufacture smart devices to advise customers about the scheme and how to avoid being victimized. The FBI is also working to alert law enforcement first responders to this threat so they may respond accordingly.”

The FBI has been working with the manufacturers of the targeted smart devices to warn their customers about the threat of swatting attacks and provide them with recommendations on how to protect their devices hacked.

The FBI recommends users to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for smart devices exposed online. The FBI also recommends customers to don’t use an email account in 2FA for the second factor, instead recommends the use of a mobile device number.“The FBI is also working to alert law enforcement first responders to this threat so they may respond accordingly,” the agency noted.

“Users of smart home devices with cameras and/or voice capabilities are advised of the following guidance to maximize security.” concludes the alert.

  • Because offenders are using stolen email passwords to access smart devices, users should practice good cyber hygiene by ensuring they have strong, complex passwords or passphrases for their online accounts, and should not duplicate the use of passwords between different online accounts. Users should update their passwords on a regular basis.
  • Users should enable two-factor authentication for their online accounts and on all devices accessible through an internet connection in order to reduce the chance a criminal could access their devices.
    • It is highly recommended that the user’s second factor for two-factor or multi-factor authentication be a mobile device number and not a secondary e-mail account.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Swatting)

The post FBI warns swatting attacks on owners of smart devices appeared first on Security Affairs.


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