In a public service announcement last week, the FBI warned residents with camera and voice-capable smart devices that hackers are targeting them with swatting attacks that stem from stolen email credentials. Swatting is an attack in which ill-meaning attackers make a fake emergency call to the police, calling law enforcement and S.W.A.T teams into action on a fake premise. The hoax call usually mentions an immediate life threat so that law enforcement will scramble to arrive ASAP and in full force. This type of attack causes damage on both sides of the dangerous prank – police, who are taken away from other critical tasks, and homeowners whose hacked devices were used for the call, who are left confused and shaken or worse. Some health-related and even violent consequences of these situations have also been reported.
To carry out these swatting attacks, hackers have been using stolen email passwords to hijack smart home security systems. In many cases, the credentials were stolen from a password leak on a different platform entirely, but since many people reuse passwords, once attackers get their hands on one leaked DB – they can access more of the victim’s accounts using the same credentials. While previous swatting attacks forced threat actors to spoof their numbers to make the call look as if it’s coming from someone else, this advance in the attack platform allows them to make the call directly from the victim's device. In addition to making calls, hackers can also manipulate the live-stream camera and the device mic and/or speakers (like in the famous case where a man who had hacked a smart home security device filmed himself speaking to young children through the device, pretending to be Santa). The FBI explains that “swatting may be motivated by revenge, used as a form of harassment, or used as a prank”. Either way, it has extremely damaging and dangerous consequences.
ThreatSTOP strongly recommends avoiding password reuse.
It is crucial to use different passwords for accounts on different platforms. A whopping 65% of people reuse passwords, which is quite shocking considering the fact that 80% of data breaches last year were caused by password compromise. Services and businesses are constantly getting breached, their user credential databases downloaded and sold on the internet. Once your breached credentials from one platform reach cyber attackers, they will try to breach your accounts on all platforms and get their hands on personal data and payment details.
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