Local cybersecurity journalist target of 911 prank

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Brian Krebs was vacuuming his living room in his Fairfax County home Thursday afternoon when the phone rang in his upstairs office. He made a mental note to check the message later. He had to get the house ready for a dinner party he was hosting later that evening.

Krebs, 40, noticed the plastic tape he used to secure the extension cord from the outside was still stuck to his front door, he wrote in a blog post on his website krebsonsecurity.com.

As he opened the door to peel the tape off he heard someone shout, “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air,” he wrote.

Krebs stood up, looked straight ahead, then to his left, and realized a troop of Fairfax County police officers with pistols, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles drawn, were pointing their weapons at him, he wrote.

Krebs didn’t know at the time that he was the victim of a new phenomenon called “swatting.”

The goal of the prank is to get police to respond to an emergency that doesn’t exist. Someone calls 911 and makes it look like the call came from the victim’s home.

Krebs, a local cybersecurity journalist, believes he was the target of the swatting because of a post he wrote in August 2012 about an online service for hire to knock websites offline, he wrote in his blog.

Six months earlier, he says he wrote to Fairfax County police warning them he may be targeted.

Standing in handcuffs that afternoon, Krebs explained to officers what swatting was. According to Krebs, the call he missed while vacuuming was from police returning the 911 call from the number they received. He was released and says officers apologized to him for the inconvenience.

Celebrities have also been caught in the crosshairs of swatting. Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy in Los Angeles admitted to making prank calls to police that sent officers to the homes of singer Justin Beiber and actor Ashton Kutcher.

Follow @tewarren and @WTOP on Twitter.

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