Swatting suspects charged with subverting Ring doorbell cams and calling cops

Heavily armed US police turning up on the doorstep is no laughing matter

Two men have been charged with an alleged week-long US swatting spree in which they used stolen Yahoo email credentials to break into Ring door cameras, livestream the events on social media, and then taunt responding police officers.

One of the two men, Kya Christian Nelson, aka "ChumLul," 21, of Racine, Wisconsin, is already behind bars for an unrelated case. But James Thomas Andrew McCarty, or. "Aspertaine," 20, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was arrested last week.

According to the grand jury indictment returned Friday afternoon, Nelson and McCarty allegedly gained access to home security door cameras sold by Ring for a week in November 2020. To do this, they first illicitly acquired usernames and passwords belonging to US Yahoo email users. The men then determined whether the account owners also had Ring systems linked to internet-controlled doorbell cameras. 

If the victim did have a Ring account, the duo then allegedly made fake emergency calls to local police to get them to come to the victim's home (aka swatting), and they also streamed the audio and video of the law enforcement officers' response at the residences via the compromised security cameras.  

"Nelson and McCarthy would verbally taunt responding police officers and victims through the Ring devices during the police response," according to the indictment [PDF].

In one account detailed in the court documents, Nelson placed a hoax 911 call, while posing as a kid reporting a stabbing involving her parents. In another, he allegedly told police he was being held hostage at gunpoint at the victim's home. And in yet another, the alleged dirtbag said he was a child and that his father had shot his mother.

Both men have been charged with one count of conspiracy to intentionally access computers without authorization. Nelson also was charged with two counts of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

If convicted, they each face a maximum of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charges, while Nelson faces an additional seven years for the other counts related to the swatting spree.

In total, the indictment details 47 such accounts in Flat Rock, Michigan; Redding, California; Billings, Montana; Decatur, Georgia; Chesapeake, Virginia; Rosenberg, Texas; Oxnard, California; Darien, Illinois; Huntsville, Alabama; North Port, Florida; and Katy, Texas.

This series of swatting incidents prompted the FBI in late 2020 to issue a warning to users of smart home devices with cameras, urging them to use complex, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

The FBI continues to investigate this matter, according to the US Department of Justice. ®

 

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