The next generation 911 system being installed across the country could make it far easier for angry videogamers to call police to their rivals’ homes after losing a game of Halo.
The practice is known as “swatting,” and it typically occurs when someone live-streams a video game and one of their viewers decides to hack their I.P. and physical address and then call police to their home. The incoming system, however, called NG 911, operates on the internet rather than telephones, allowing users to post police reports much like they would update a Facebook status, NPR reported Thursday. Police say this change could make it far easier to fool police into responding to fake emergency reports.
“Unfortunately, there’s evil people out there that continue to do this and the more we embrace that technology the more risk we have,” Virginia’s Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler told NPR.
“Swatting” is dangerous and sometimes fatal. Police responding to a phony call in Kansas in December and killed a man because they were told he was holding his family hostage. It turned out that a Los Angeles man had simply been angry at losing a Call of Duty match and called Kansas police, claiming he had shot his father and was holding his mother and sister hostage at the address.
Police across the country already take 600,000 emergency calls per day, according to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). But today, citizens are forced to describe their emergencies on the phone, and police want the new system to be more flexible by allowing users to submit text and video. The cost, however, is that there is currently no alternative to caller I.D., which helps police verify that the caller is actually near the emergency being reported. While caller I.D. can be fooled, there’s no need to fool anything in the new system – yet.
At least 20 states have pledged to use NG 911, but the program is still a ways off and will cost an estimated $10 billion before it’s finished. Part of the process is creating a reliable way to verify reports, especially a video report, as there is no obvious way to determine when footage was recorded.
“You could conceivably have a video that is fabricated and is sent into a 911 dispatch center that appears to be one thing when in fact it is something quite different,” said Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum.
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