February 3, 2023

Money News PH

The Premier Blog Where Money Talks

Two men accused of hacking a dozen Ring cameras and livestreaming swatting attacks

According to the Justice Department, two men have been charged with hacking into Ring doorbells and using their cameras to live-stream swatting attacks. Kya Christian Nelson, 21, James Thomas Andrew McCarty, 20, and unnamed others allegedly spent a week using stolen Yahoo email addresses and passwords to access videos from a dozen security systems before taking them to police cried every place of residence, so the indictment, which you can read below.

The DOJ says the scheme worked like this: the alleged perpetrators would get the information for the Yahoo accounts and then find out if the owner also had a Ring account. If they did, Nelson, McCarty and the others would allegedly “gather information” about people before calling the police, telling dispatchers things as if they were kids whose drunk parents were shooting guns around the house, or that someone was held hostage.

“We brute force n****s ring the doorbell and we hit ’em”

According to the press release, the alleged victims lived across the United States, in Michigan, California, Montana, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Alabama and Florida. Nelson, already in prison after pleading guilty to shooting and bombing a high school in Kentucky, is charged with aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a computer. Both he and McCarty, who the DOJ said was arrested last week, are also charged with “conspiracy to intentionally access computers without permission.”

The indictment doesn’t go into great detail about how police responded in most cases, but it does allege that the men used the rings to taunt cops when they appeared. (Many Ring devices have speakers that allow owners to communicate with anyone who comes to their door.) There’s also no mention of which social media platforms Nelson and McCarty allegedly used to “broadcast audio and video ‘ captured by ring cameras during police replies.

However, it does provide details of a case in North Port, Florida. According to news reports from local media and Vice, which appear to be related to the incident mentioned in the indictment, the call resulted in a school being closed. The indictment alleges McCarty bragged about the beating on unnamed social media platforms, saying, “We ring the doorbell brutally and we bang them afterwards… It’s freakin’ funny,” and posted a link to articles about the reaction of the police and said he “made the news”.

Ring and its parent company Amazon have a long history of providing data to law enforcement, and unsurprisingly, they’ve also been targeted by criminals. Although the doorbells weren’t strictly necessary for the banging, they gave the criminals a chance to watch it in real-time.

It’s one of the reasons streamers are common targets – perpetrators can see the police bursting in, guns drawn. Of course, that last part is why swatting isn’t a harmless prank; Police have killed innocent people responding to these types of calls, and even nonfatal incidents can traumatize victims.