An elaborate revenge hoax orchestrated by hackers against a prominent Internet security advocate turned a quiet Sunday afternoon in a New Jersey neighborhood into a 3-hour nightmare.
At 3:38 p.m. yesterday (July 24), police received a 911 call from a man saying he had killed four people and was holding another hostage inside a home in Wyckoff, N.J., North Jersey.com reported.
Thirty police officers, including the Bergen County SWAT team, descended upon the house, owned by Parry Aftab, a noted cybercrime lawyer and anti-cyberbullying crusader, according to the website.
Aiming automatic rifles at the home for three hours, police waited for instructions from the supposed killer — he had asked for $10,000 and a getaway car — before firing a teargas bomb through the window and storming the home.
When they got inside the house, police said they found it empty save for the family cat. No dead bodies, no hostage, no killer, no Parry Aftab.
It turns out the 911 call that sparked the suburban standoff did not come from Aftab's house, but was placed through a computer that "cloned" her number, making it appear to come from her.
Aftab was out of town for the weekend. The movements of the cat behind closed curtains gave cops the impression the house was occupied.
It's possible that this devastating hoax may have been carried out as an act of revenge for a television appearance Aftab made a year ago.
According to a Gawker article, members of the online forum 4chan launched a multi-pronged attack on Aftab after she spoke out against cyberbullying on "Good Morning America," taking down her websites, defacing her Wikipedia page, leaking her phone number and address and rigging Google's search results to display a phony page titled "Parry Aftab Molests Child."
Unfortunately, what happened to Aftab is not an isolated incident.
"Swatting," the practice of pranking the police to show up at a home with a SWAT team, is not uncommon among cybercriminals. The Register reported that hackers enacted the same twisted revenge last month against a 15-year-old Florida teen that angered his opponents while playing Xbox.