Communication is Key

One ringy dingy .... two ringy dingy ....
One ringy dingy …. two ringy dingy ….
There are days where I stare at the universe and say “Really, Universe, that’s your go to move?” It happens when I see stuff that is head slappingly dumb. But before we start our cavalcade of face palms I thought I’d share a hopeful moment. I was on the bus when a young mom and her son, dressed in his full Boy Scout regalia, got on. He was around 10 I would guess. They were headed to some special event. The kid seemed genuinely excited about it whatever it was. The mom was questioning her son abut all the eye rolling things moms normally ask when I heard her say “Will there be gays there?” The kid, bless his little soul, turned to face her directly and said “Yeah, I s’pose, but there’ll be blacks too and I’m not going to turn into one of them either.”

Thanks Universe. I needed a positive thought.

A couple of quick asides before we continue. To the idiots at Applebee’s who fired the waitress for posting the customer’s check online, “Way to over react morons.” The young lady had served a table full of people, headed by a pastor, and each person wanted an individual check. After doing all that she got stiffed and the pastor left this note, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” No, idiot, you give your church 10%, God has never asked for a dime in all His years. Yes, the young lady should not have posted the receipt with the pastor’s name visible on line. That is worth a reprimand. Not termination. Especially for an employee who has been with you for years. Hire her back, smile when asked and move on.

Speaking of over reacting, the government of Iceland refused to let a girl be called by her name so she was only known as “Girl.” She had been baptized “Blaer” but the government said that was a boy’s name and refused to register her. Iceland controls what people can and can not name their kids. You’re not Icelandic so don’t judge. Anyway, after a lengthy court battle the government conceded that Blaer could be called Blaer. The name means “Breeze” in case you were curious. Not very masculine if you ask me, but I’m not Icelandic either.

Now, to the whole communication angle of today’s blog. police in Florida thanked Matthew Dollarhide for making their life easier. He butt dialed 911 during a drug deal.

A conversation with two passengers landed an Orange City, Fla., tow truck driver in jail after his cell phone pocket-dialed 911 and dispatchers listened in.

Authorities say 19-year-old Matthew Dollarhide was surprised when a Volusia County Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over on Tuesday and asked why they were talking about selling drugs.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports deputies were alerted at 9:42 p.m. local time Tuesday and sent to a location where dispatchers said the phone signal was coming from.

From the conversation, dispatchers learned that they were driving a tow truck and heard the name “Harry.” Deputies pulled over a “Harry’s Towing” truck moments later.

Deputies found a crack pipe on Dollarhide. He was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. He told police the pipe belonged to his father.

Yeah, that’s dad’ crack pipe, I was just borrowing it.

Okay, that’s funny, this next one isn’t so much. A kid in Florida who refused to be extorted by X-Box bullies, yeah this is new to me too, found himself at the wrong end of a police standoff. The extortionists had called in a hostage situation to the police and gave his address.

This could have gone very wrong very fast.

Responding to a report about a hostage situation that included one dead, police officers descended on a home in Oviedo, Fla. late Wednesday night, guns drawn. Inside they found a terrified family of four, who had been asleep — and safe — at least until they heard the doorbell ring and saw the rifle barrel poke through the front door.

Seeing what appeared to be “an arsenal,” the father of the unidentified family told Orlando’s Channel 9 that he and his wife assumed they were victims of a home invasion. “They have rifles, they have guns, and I said, ‘Let’s get out of the house,’ so we ran down the hallway and got our two boys up.”

The family were not hostages, but they were victims, people who mistakenly ended up on the receiving end of a dangerous hoax called “swatting.” The criminal prank — the type of which is increasingly common — all began because the address where the family lived was scraped from an out-of-date Xbox account.

Earlier that evening, police received a call from another Oviedo resident, a teen reporting that his Xbox had been hacked.

Lt. Mike Beavers, the Oviedo police spokesman, told NBC News that prior to accessing the Xbox user’s account, the hackers attempted to extort the teen for one of is map packs, a downloadable extension gamers can purchase to add functionality to popular multiplayer games.

“They they were trying to get the young man to give them a copy of what he had purchased, and they said if he didn’t, they were going to cause the police to come to his house by calling in a bomb threat,” Beavers said. When the teen didn’t comply, the Xbox player’s tormentors apparently accessed his account where they found an address.

Shortly after the gamer reported his encounter with the hackers to the Oviedo police, AT&T contacted the department, stating the company had received online messages from someone claiming to be at an unrelated home. The messages said that “someone had been killed at that location and others were being held hostage,” according to the police report.

Police later confirmed that this was the former home of the harassed gamer. The hackers, having obtained the old address, had called in the threat as retaliation, sending police to the unsuspecting — and totally unaffiliated — family.

Lt. Beavers told NBC News that this is the first time his department has encountered this sort of crime, which led to some very tense moments for both the police and the family. “We were told someone had been killed, and others were still held hostage,” he confirmed. “This really puts the responders on high alert.

Unfortunately, this dangerous hoax is not uncommon. In 2008, the FBI issued a warning about “swatting,” which it describes as “faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement — usually a SWAT team.”

“Needless to say, these calls are dangerous to first responders and to the victims,” the FBI report reads. “The callers often tell tales of hostages about to be executed or bombs about to go off. The community is placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies. And the officers are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents may try to defend themselves.”

“This sort of prank — and I hesitate to call it a prank, because it’s very scary — seems to be a rising trend among malicious teenagers,” Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser at Sophos, a security firm, told NBC News.

”The only thing new in this case is the Xbox,” said Wisniewski. “Most often, it’s people forging a caller ID phone number and calling emergency services.” Then, for example, the 911 operator sends responders to the address connected to the forged caller ID. Accessing an Xbox account and then emailing a false crime report via AT&T just makes it seem more high tech.

Wisniewski warns that we digitally store plenty of vital information such as street addresses that can easily be exploited for material gain or malicious intent. The danger, he says, is not keeping all your online accounts as secure as possible. “People don’t realize that your Amazon account or Xbox account has a lot of information that can be used against you.”

However, perpetrators of hacks and hoaxes may be just as vulnerable to inadvertent information leak.

“When you’re talking about kids pranking kids, the attackers are not all that sophisticated,” said Wisniewski. In the case of the Oviedo attack, the Xbox user was able to furnish police with Twitter accounts and gamer tags associated with his victimizers.

According to Lt. Beavers, the Xbox victim in this case, “had already done a little work of his own and provided the officers with information, including Twitter names, game accounts and IP information.” Once the computer behind the extortion and hoax are identified, it comes down to “putting the person behind that computer and actually proving he did it.”

I called a buddy of mine who’s a cop. He informed me that, yes, he had seen this happen before and it was one crime that is on the list to look out for. That is why police now take five seconds to assess any alleged hostage situation before moving in. That is enough time to see if it is real or if they have been conned. He also said the DA really hates people who do these sorts of things so maximum sentences are the standard request if the perp is caught.

Allow me to add some advice to the above; create four or five solid passwords, a mix of letters, numbers, a symbol or two and so on. Use them for your accounts and rotate them monthly. That reduces the odds of you getting hacked exponentially.

Just remember this, the internet is just like the real world only the creepy people aren’t hiding there.

Kirstie Narni in Caution from Butterfly Models on Vimeo.

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