This is a public service announcement for anyone playing Call of Duty online on their Xbox 360: if anyone interrupts your game and tells you they're going to hack your information and send a SWAT team to your house, they might actually be serious.
I base this announcement on the tale of a teen in Lewisville, Texas. He was, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, playing "Call of Duty: Black Ops" online on Monday with friends. Suddenly, someone interrupted him in a chat room to give him a message.
"Some dude just popped out of nowhere, and basically said he's going to hack me, he's going to get my information, call the SWAT team over to my front yard," he told CBS.
The boy thought nothing of it. Imagine, then, his and his family's surprise when what must have seemed like a very bad Hollywood movie unfolded outside their window.
For there was a fully-armed SWAT team, answering the call of duty.
A local police operator had received a call from the AT&T Instant Message Relay Service, which was created to help the hearing impaired to contact a standard telephone. The message said that someone in the boy's house had been shot and there was still shooting to be heard.
Which, in its way, was true--save for the fact that those people were in a video game.
The boy and his family (mom, dad, three kids and grandparents) were, understandably, petrified when they heard the police bullhorn and saw the SWAT team.
They came outside, then, still scared, went back inside--and, again understandably, called 911. Fortunately, reason prevailed and no one was hurt.
Police are reportedly getting a subpoena in order to root around the Xbox and online worlds for whoever might have been responsible for this.
There seems--at least from reports--to be no specific reason why this boy was targeted. Perhaps it was a prank that was more successful than the perpetrator had imagined.
Oddly, though, this is not the first time such an allegation had been made. Last year, an apparent Xbox dispute led to police in Eugene, Ore., getting a call to report a murder-suicide at a player's house.
Indeed, settling disputes by so-called "swatting" is apparently de rigueur in certain quarters. There was another case last year in Florida where the accused hacker was from Canada.
Naturally, the greatest concern for some will be just how easily the hackers were able to get hold of sufficient personal information in order to succeed in their amusement.
Can anything be done when games are being played on the Internet, a place where even the CIA and Mexican Senate--merely recent examples--are also vulnerable?