How Often Do Twitch Streamers Get Swatted?

I like answering reader questions. They are always interesting and sometimes downright intriguing. They can also be completely leftfield or thought-provoking. Like this one. ‘How often do Twitch streamers get swatted?’ This arrived in the SwipeTips mailbox this week after our increased coverage of Twitch and Discord.


Streaming

Swatting is an increasing problem and seems to happen every week. We often see it on the news or on bulletins in Twitch or Discord and nothing seems to be happening to stop it.

What is swatting?

Swatting is the act of placing a hoax call to law enforcement that alleges a serious crime such as kidnapping, murder with an automatic weapon, bomb threat or something else that will cause the authorities to respond with an armed response team or SWAT. As the US has paramilitary police, it is exceptionally popular here. Give how trigger happy our cops are, swatting is incredibly dangerous and has proven fatal.

Usually, it is streamers or online gamers that get swatted. Someone on their stream or who doesn’t like them, loses a match to them or just takes a dislike finds their address through doxxing or social engineering and calls in a hoax on that address. The authorities have no option but to respond and chaos ensues.

Streamers are chosen because the scene happens live on camera. The streamer is happily going about their business and the door crashes open and armed cops start shouting or shooting. This voyeurism is part of the attraction to those who call these hoaxes in.

I don’t know how many people exactly have been swatted but I know 10 streamers off the top of my head that have been swatted over the past few years, Summit1G, Kootra, Gross Gore, Calebhart42, Joshua Peters, Mhova, David Hogg, ImGoreJess, Ice Poseidon and Bugha. There are many more and that number is likely to grow.

A couple of swatters have been caught, but not many. Most notably, the swatter of Andrew Finch over the infamous $1.50 Call of Duty bet, Tyler Raj Barriss has been jailed.

It isn’t just gamers and streamers. Some celebrities have been swatted too. Tom Cruise, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber have all been swatted.

What’s being done about swatting?

To be fair to the authorities, they have to respond to every call they receive. They have no choice. It would obviously benefit everyone involved if they didn’t go in guns blazing but that would require a rethink of our entire law enforcement.

Instead, some police forces are setting up opt-in lists where streamers and celebrities can add a note to their address on the police database alerting authorities to the risk of that address being used in swatting. Not everywhere has done this yet and it is still rolling out but it’s a start.

How to avoid being swatted

You cannot completely avoid being swatted but you can lower the chances of it happening. There are a couple of practical steps you can take to reduce the chances of having your stream interrupted by paramilitaries as they smash your door in.

Register with your local police

Find out if your city has an opt-in register for swatting. If they do, sign up. If they don’t, visit your nearest police precinct and ask them to add a notation to your file warning first responders that you may be a target for swatting. If a hoax is called in, they will still have to respond but will hopefully be a little more careful when doing so.

Keep your private life private

Your streamer identity should be completely separate from your real one. Your username should not relate or link to your real life, your stream should not even hint at a location and you should do everything you can to separate one life from the other.

Look at the scene too. When you’re setting up, look at what’s in the wall behind you and in the camera view. Don’t have a bunch of posters for concerts in one small town or area of a city that could identify you and don’t let anything that could identify you appear on camera.

Use a VPN

There are tools out there that help people trace IP addresses through malware and social engineering. This can narrow down your location significantly. It won’t identify you on your own but it will help. Using a VPN will help avoid that.

Be aware of doxxing and social engineering

Doxxing is where someone finds your personal information from online sources. It can then be published online or used against you in a swatting incident. Social engineering is a practice scammers use to gain confidence and extract identifiable information using questions and manipulation.

Swatting isn’t completely preventable but there are some practical steps you can take to lower the chances of it happening to you. Stay safe out there!