An unidentified “high up” executive at Bungie awoke to the sound of police helicopters at 4am Thursday morning in Sammamish, Washington, as Police had been lead to believe there was an armed hostage situation in progress.
“The caller said he had an assault rifle and he had placed explosives in the yard and he was holding a family hostage,” Nathan Elledge, chief of police at the Sammamish Police Department, told Komo News. “He wanted $20,000 to release the family.”
It took 45 minutes of carefully assessing the situation for the Sherif and police officers at the scene to realize that the call didn’t originate from the residence, and had faked the point of origin through a computer. It is unclear whether or not this was the result of a disgruntled coworker or bitter fan. The police department has not been able to trace the origin of the fake call but if found, the person responsible would face fines up to $5,000 dollars and a year in jail.
Swatting, wherein a hacker deceives emergency services (usually by calling 911) into deploying SWAT to an unsuspecting victim’s home under false pretenses, is nothing new. There was a case in Long Island this past April of a Call of Duty player swatting another after losing a match that resulted in a two hour stand off that blocked traffic, endangered everyone int the area and kept police away from real emergencies. A SWAT team can be seen here arresting streamer Jordan “Kootra” Mathewson on his live stream when a rival player swatted him.
Not only are these “pranks” a massive waste of time and resources, but it’s hard to overlook how easily someone could have been injured or worse. With so much uncertainty in this disturbing trend of harassment in the games industry, all we know for sure is that it’s not going away–and if anything, has been steadily increasing in incidents and severity.