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Xbox Live patrols hit by ugly SWAT attacks

Spoofed emergency texts draw armed cops

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Hackers trying to cheat the Xbox Live game network have stooped to a new low: sending hoax emergency distress calls to police with the goal of drawing an armed response to the homes of Microsoft employees.

According to The Sammamish Patch news service, Eric Neustadter, operations manager for Xbox Live, was the latest Xbox enforcer to receive an emergency response from armed police. The report, and a follow-up article in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said similar SWAT attacks have hit other Microsoft employees as well.

The latest incident happened in the early hours of August 29, when someone calling himself “eric” sent a text message to an emergency service for AT&T cellphone subscribers.

“2 armed Russian males broke in and they shot my son,” it claimed. “They have claymores outside... my door is barricaded...pls hurry!”

Another message soon followed: “They are coming upstairs...pls hurry.”

When an AT&T dispatcher responded by asking Eric for a phone number, he said his phone lines had been cut.

As deputies with the King County Sheriff Department took up positions outside Neustadter's home a little after 4 a.m., a police operator finally managed to reach Neustadter on the phone.

He said everyone in his home was safe and that the emergency reports were a hoax, the websites reported. He went on to explain that his job responsibilities include shutting down Xbox Live players who cheat by exploiting vulnerabilities in the system, something that makes him unpopular with some hackers. He also said similar incidents have happened to “numerous other Microsoft employees in the past.”

Over the past few years such SWAT attacks – so called because their aim is to evoke responses from heavily armed Special Weapons And Tactics police squads – have become all the rage with some disgruntled hackers looking for an easy way to avenge perceived slights. The exploits require little skill on the part of the anonymous attackers, but they sure get the attention of their victims. ®

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