Schools, streamers, and even authors have all been the victim of swatter-for-hire Torswats, as was revealed by Motherboard in April last year. Using the messaging app Telegram, the Torswats 'service' has been offering swattings for cash—$75 to shut down a school, for example—and has been linked to a rash of criminal activity across the United States.
In case you're unfamiliar, 'swatting' is a term used to describe false reports made to the police. The practice that not only wastes funding and time, but also massively disrupts the lives of its victims, leading to traumatising searches of their homes. In some cases when these false calls are poorly handled by law enforcement, swatting can be fatal.
For the time being, it looks like Torswats—a Californian teenager now extradited to Florida—has been apprehended thanks to the work of a private investigator Brad Dennis (Cafrozed) and the FBI. According to Wired's report, Dennis had been "hunting Torswats for nearly two years".
One major breakthrough reportedly comes via Dennis' cooperation with Twitch streamers. World of Warcraft streamer Matt Morse (StaySafeTV on Twitch) used Caforzed's services after he was swatted: "After getting pulled out of my house, with a wife and infant child inside, to face an armed group of SWAT officers pointing firearms at me, it is maddening to acknowledge that our justice system seemingly places a very low priority on capturing swatters." Dennis later retweeted Morse's post, confirming his involvement.
During a stream, Morse says he was able to provide information to Dennis after recognising the alleged criminal's "ways of typing" from a private server community. "There are certain things that this person was saying where it was like: Huh, I knew a guy that used to say things like that five years ago on a private server … if that kid had not swatted me specifically, he probably would not be in jail right now."
Dennis also used a service called Vox to pretend to hire Torswat's services, as the Wired report states: "By recording his network traffic, the investigator surreptitiously captured the swatter’s IP address along with a username that at the time was unknown to law enforcement." He then shared those details with the FBI, who used them in subpoenas during its investigation.
Science fiction author Patrick S. Tomlinson also thanked Dennis on Twitter, writing: "My family has been terrorised by this sociopath and the cultists paying him for nearly two years. 46 swatting calls to our home, three to my elderly parents, and half a dozen bomb threats in multiple states in our names. We can't thank you enough."
Seminole County later confirmed that the teenager is being held on a no-bond basis. Their exact involvement with Torswats—whether they were a single individual or part of a wider group—is also yet to be determined. Wired already reports that someone using Torswats' handle has reached out and declared: "I am pretty sure I’ll never be arrested". However, in a high-profile incident such as this one, the chance of impersonators angling to stir the pot is high.