#CyberFLASH: Canadian teen sentenced after “swatting,” “doxxing” across North America

hi-computer-user-silhouette-852-8colThrough his computer in a suburb of Vancouver, the Canadian teenager carried out a yearlong campaign of harassment and mayhem across North America.

He targeted mostly female gamers who had spurned his friend requests, chats and obscene demands. His weapons: Making bogus emergency calls that brought police SWAT teams to their homes. Hacking into their computers and accounts. Posting their personal information online.

His crimes disrupted lives from Toronto to Tucson, caused a school lockdown in Florida and briefly shut down part of Disneyland. In January 2014, his false call about a hostage-taking brought police to a home on West 136th Street in Burnsville. The family who lived there later found identity thieves had opened fraudulent accounts in their name, after the hacker circulated their financial data online.

On July 9, the 17-year-old who caused all this trouble, identified only as “BLA” in court records because of privacy laws, received a 16-month prison sentence from a judge in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. He had pleaded guilty to 23 charges but came across to psychologists as “callous and remorseless,” according to the judge’s order.

The digital age has opened a Pandora’s box of harassment techniques with their own nomenclature: “doxxing,” for example, is posting someone’s sensitive documents or private information online. Made easier by Internet phone services, “swatting” means tricking the police to bring a massive response to an unsuspecting resident.

The Canadian teen’s crimes fit a pattern, said Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and author of the 2014 book, “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.” The victims are primarily young women, who are stalked online with threats of rape and sexual humiliation, with the intention of silencing them by forcing them offline, Citron said.

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