What Protection Teams Can Do To Navigate the Increase in Swatting

The act of Swatting has been around for years (back in the early 2000s), but an increase in the frequency of calls that are happening and the proliferation of different targets has placed it under the spotlight in recent months. Swatting is the act of placing a hoax call to emergency services with the intention of triggering a swift and intense response. This malicious practice has been increasingly directed towards prominent figures such as politicians, judges, and celebrities. Scott Stewart, Vice President at TorchStone Global, sheds light on why we are seeing more of these events in the headlines and what protection teams can do to prevent them from happening. 

Stewart brings 35 years of analytical, investigative, and security experience, including being a member of Michael Dell’s executive protection team and serving ten years as a special agent with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. Stewart is a popular speaker on security topics and is frequently interviewed by journalists from leading news outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and NPR.

Key topics of Stewart’s discussion with host Fred Burton include:

  • How a swatting event can occur, and what the social media conundrum has to do with it. (hint: It doesn’t happen out of the blue.)
  • Advice for protection teams on mitigating this type of threat and what to look for in terms of early warning signs.
  • Why it’s critical to have strong relationships with authorities at all levels and have an open dialogue so authorities can put context around any calls coming in that target a VIP.

For more information, check out Torchstone Global’s article on the topic: Preparing for the Next Swatting Attack 

Key takeaways:

03:25: Scott Stewart: Having a good liaison at all levels – state, local, and federal level is critical because you want to have those connections ahead of an event. Obviously, it’s much more difficult to make connections in the midst of ah you know of an emergency. So if you give them a little bit of advanced notice — we’ve got some aggrieved people that are focused on us, or they’ve doxed us, etc. — it can really help them place the call into context. 

10:33: Fred: So if you’re that protection team out there with responsibility for the executive crew, you have to make sure that you have a good finger on the pulse.

10:42: Scott Stewart: I mean let’s face you you need to have that no matter what threat actor we’re talking about — unstable individuals, stalkers, activists, terrorists, criminals. You know we always need to remain alert to all these various threat actors and this is just one more to throw in the hopper. 

The good news is it is something that can be foreseen as we follow these grievances, and watch their communications. We see things like doxing denunciation. That allows us to see the progression along the Social Media Threat Continuum. We talk about things like the pathway to violence or the attack cycle, looking at the Social Media Threat Continuum then just gives us a guide that helps us understand where we were where we are in relation to these threat actors.