FBI arrest swatter responsible for attacks on gamers and journalists - Dexerto

FBI arrest swatter responsible for attacks on gamers and journalists

Published: 16/Jan/2020 6:00

by Isaac McIntyre


The FBI has criminally charged a Virginia man who allegedly organized dozens of swatting attacks carried out by an online group that targeted Twitch streamers, video content creators, journalists, and even a Facebook executive.

With the rise of streaming culture across gaming communities and the internet at large, swatting has become more and more prevalent in recent times.

The action itself requires the perpetrator to make an anonymous phone call to the police, faking serious threats to draw in extreme responses from authorities, and often even SWAT divisions. These ‘pranks’ can often have deadly consequences.

According to an FBI affidavit unsealed this week, one such ‘swatter’ by the name of John William Kirby Kelley has been charged by authorities for orchestrating a series of these attacks on “prominent gamers, journalists, and government officials.”

The affidavit also details that he was found to have had a helping hand in founding Internet Relay Chat channel “Deadnet.” This channel was used for the sole purpose of identifying targets, and carrying out organized swatting attacks.

Police officer in riot gear
Swatting has become more prevalent online with the rise of forums and gaming communities.

Perhaps the most high-profile gaming victims Kelley is alleged to have targeted during his time operating on the Deadnet server is Andrea Rovenski, who streams on Twitch under the name ‘Cyberdemon531.’

Rovenski was targetted by a swatting attack in 2018. She was playing through a Sypro 2 speedrun when armed officers surrounded her house, before storming her residence and pinning her, and her disabled mother, to the ground.

“I go outside and what I see is maybe five or six police cars and 10 to 15 riot cops,” Rovenski told Vice. “They all have assault rifles and they‘re all pointed at me. You know, my arms are up and, you know, it’s horrifying.”

According to Vice, the streamer’s mother struggled to recover from the incident, often having nightmares and struggling to sleep, before passing away due to a stroke Rovenski linked to the “extremely stressful event” of the swatting.

Soon after this attack, the FBI began investigating Kelley. They moved their investigation into high gear when the Old Dominion University in Virginia received an anonymous bomb and shooting threat, which was eventually linked to Kelley.

The FBI revealed the swatting organizer used a VPN service to hide his internet location, and employed voice-over-IP services to call the police. After the initial call, Kreb reports, Kelley redialed authorities, but accidentally did it on his own phone.

Officers were then able to determine the voice on the first call was a match to the second, accidental call from Kelley, and conducted an interview with the suspect. Investigators later confirmed he admitted to the hoax attacks, and was found in possession of two phones, and storage devices with hosts of IRC logs.

Investigators also revealed they found photos of him and others wearing tactical gear, armed with automatic weapons, and brandishing pictures of Atomwaffen recruitment material and the neo-Nazi publication Siege, all stored on his phone.

Alexandrea Sheriff Department / Wikimedia Commons
Shelley was arrested by the FBI for multiple swatting attacks, and the organization of many more.

Kelley’s attacks may have been orchestrated and methodical, but not every swatting incident is as nefarious and calculated in nature.

Gamer Nicholas Huffine was sentenced to five years jail or a $250,000 fine after he swatted an opponent, and Fortnite World Cup winner Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf fell victim to a swatting in August, though he knew the officer that arrived at his door.

Unfortunately, not every swatting ends so well. In 2017, Tyler Barris swatted gaming rival, Andrew Finch. Finch, the victim of the ‘swat,’ was killed by police, and Barris was sentenced to 20 years in prison.


Police hunt for suspect after hoax hostage situation at Ubisoft Montreal

Published: 13/Nov/2020 19:45 Updated: 14/Nov/2020 0:37

by Theo Salaun


Reports indicate that there is an ongoing hostage situation involving dozens of people at Ubisoft Montreal’s headquarters in the Mile-End neighborhood of Montreal, Quebec. There have been no confirmed injuries.

Update (7:35 p.m. ET): Ubisoft Montreal have released a statement regarding the hostage situation. “We are extremely relieved this was resolved without incident and we’d like to thank you all for your support and kind words.”

No injuries were reported at the offices. Montreal Police are launching a full investigation into the call.

Update (5:04 p.m. ET): All of the Ubisoft Montreal’s building occupants are being safely evacuated by Montreal’s police force and the police have joined local news in suggesting that the situation was, in fact, a hoax perpetrated by a call within the Ubisoft headquarters. No suspect has been identified or apprehended at this point, but the SPVM are actively investigating.

Update (4:04 p.m. ET): While local news outlets are reporting that the hostage situation was a hoax, Montreal’s police force have indeed confirmed that there appears to be no active threat and that the building’s occupants are being evacuated.

Update (3:33 p.m. ET): Little is known about the police force’s ongoing activity in attempts to enter the building, but CTV News reports that Ubisoft’s employees have been told, via company memo, to “hide in an area that locks and to keep quiet.”

Update (3:00 p.m. ET): Heavily armed Montreal police tactical units are approaching the building and preparing to make entry. Dozens of employees remain on roof and no injuries or negotiations with the suspects have been reported thus far.

Update (November 13, 2020 at 2:49 p.m. ET): Police appear to have barricaded off the daycare at Ubisoft Montreal’s headquarters, at least 50 employees have barricaded themselves atop the building’s roof, and tactical police units have blocked off surrounding streets and appear to be preparing to make entry. Current reports indicate that there have been no injuries thus far, according to local news on the scene.

With numerous reports and tweets from local news and Ubisoft Montreal employees, respectively, it appears that a hostage situation is unfolding at the company’s headquarters but that all employees are safe. 

In the afternoon, it was reported by Quebec’s TVA Nouvelles that dozens of hostages were being held at Ubisoft Montreal’s building on Saint Laurent Boulevard. This ongoing situation was echoed by Montreal’s police department, who put out public announcements to avoid the area due to the police’s efforts there.

Shortly after, numerous employees, including Programming Project Lead Gavin Young and a Production Marketer for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, tweeted that they were indeed safe and sound despite what was happening in the building.

Although ‘Valskuiken’ tweeted that they would be going home, it appears that a large conglomerate of employees have made their ways to the building’s roof and have barricaded themselves up there by blocking off the door to the exterior.

Further, reports from TVA Nouvelles indicate that a ransom request has been made by the suspects, but it is unclear what has come of it as police continue to operate in the vicinity.

At present, it appears that numerous employees are safe but it is unclear what is precisely happening with the situation given the multi-floor building’s space and large occupancy. At least 50 employees have made it to the roof, wherereports show they are holding up safely. However, in anticipation of the police force making entry into the building, it seems that ambulances and a tactical police force are arriving to the scene.

As reports indicate, the tactical forces approaching the building include numerous police officers, tactical police units, and heavier vehicles. There have been no indications of injuries thus far, so it appears that the ambulances are predominantly a precautionary measure.

We will be continuing to update this page with updates as they come in and as the Montreal police force and local news provide information to the public about the current circumstances.