Suspected Hackers Send Police to Home of Microsoft Employee

An AT&T operator received instant messages that armed men had broken into the house.

Sammamish police rushed to the home of Microsoft employee last week in response to a report of a problem after the King County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call from AT&T.

The AT&T Emergency Instant Message Relay (AEIMR) system, a police report said, had received an instant message from a male which read, “2 armed Russian males broke in and they shot my son. They have Claymores outside…my door is barricaded…pls hurry!”

A Claymore is a type of mine used by the military. The second message received in the Aug. 29 incident said, “they are coming upstairs…pls hurry.”

The AEIMR operator was relaying the information to the King County Sheriff's Office as soon as the person saw it typed into the system. AEIMR asked the male for a phone number and he replied, “they cut the phone lines.”

Attempts were again made to contact him but failed. Another message said, “kicked the door in.” That was followed by, “now they are trying to break into my room.”

A background search revealed that a previous threat at the address had been reported on Jan. 11, 2010.

A team of King County Sheriff's deputies assigned to Sammamish police arrived at the house at 4:10 a.m. The house is located in the eastern part of the city.

As the deputies took up cover positions, they were informed that an operator had made contact with a female inside the house. While speaking with the female, police received a message that said, “please hurry, they have weapons.”

The operator was then able to make contact with a man in the house who said that he was all right. He believed this was the work of hackers, according to the police report.

The man explained that he works in a high-profile position at Microsoft in the Xbox division. Police requested that he come outside. As he was being instructed to do so they received another message that said, “There’s a device blinking red on the table.”

After the man came outside, the police searched the property and made sure everyone was all right. The man said that he believed this was all a hoax and that similar false calls had happened to Microsoft employees in the past. The man explained that he works with Xbox Live Operations. One of his duties, he said, is to head a team that tracks and shuts down hackers who attempt to exploit the system. Hackers, he told police, have been known to retaliate.

Police believe this was a case of "swatting," a phenomenon popular with hackers. "Swatting" involves making a 911 call and faking an emergency to draw as much attention from law enforcement as possible, according to the FBI. The FBI says that there have been over 100 cases of "swatting" across the country.

The case has been forwarded to the King County Sheriff's Office major crimes unit for investigation.

Editor's note: In 2007, a then-teenager in Mukilteo was arrested after police said he engineered a false 911 call - which sent sheriff's deputies to a house in Southern California.

Tim Armstrong September 09, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Sorry that the police were drawn into this potentially dangerous mess. But you want fraud? Microsoft is the mecca of fraud. Whole thing runs on protection money.
John Vidale September 10, 2011 at 05:11 PM
The texts read like a badly-written thriller, it's fortunate the hackers were not smarter. Device blinking red? Cut the phone lines, in this day of cell phones? Diversion of police and exposing a household to a potential SWAT-team-style action is a serious crime, not a prank. In the unlikely event the "pranksters" are caught, I hope they are taken off the street for a good long while, and made to use mechanical rotary phones and paper and pencil for the rest of their lives.
amy September 13, 2011 at 03:43 AM
I can understand their fustration my 4 yr olds accoint was banned now my husbands tonight and we cannot get anyne to explain how we susposly stole from the market place and our post on the forums get deleted with no answer so who can ialk to i just paid for a family online package and cant use it 100 dollars just thrown away


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