grarpamp at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 14:19:57 PDT 2023
> Notable uptick...
> Stay out of the crossfire.
Governments Politicians and Corporations around the world assassinate,
and plot to assassinate, directly or via proxy, many people every year,
some of whom are innocent civilians, journalists, demonstrators for causes,
competitors, etc. Such acts have been well documented by historians.
These entities have also written papers debating assassination markets,
including suggesting them for their own use.
A next generation of AI, and AI Chat-GPT Oracle Services, NetBots,
and 3D Drones, has recently appeared, and the entities are salivating
for their every potential use of it. Beware their crossfire.
A Computer Generated Swatting Service Is Causing Havoc Across America
by Joseph Cox April 13, 2023
Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast
and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.
As the U.S. deals with a nationwide swatting wave, Motherboard has traced
much of the activity to a particular swatting-as-a-service account on
Telegram. Torswats uses synthesized voices to pressure law enforcement
to specific locations.
"Hello, I just committed a crime and I want to confess," a panicked
sounding man said in a call to a police department in February. "I've
placed explosives inside a local school,' the man continued.
"You did what?!" the operator responded.
"I've placed explosives inside a local school," the man said again, before
specifying Hempstead High School in Dubuque, Iowa, and providing its
address. In response to the threat, the school went on lockdown, and
police searched the school but found nothing, according to a local media
The bombs weren't real. But, crucially, neither was the man's voice. The
panicked man's lines sound artificially generated, according to recordings
of the swatting calls reviewed by Motherboard. It is unclear how exactly
the caller generated the voice, be that some form of artificial
intelligence tool or another speech synthesis program. The result, though,
is a voice that sounds very consistent across multiple calls.
In fact, Motherboard has found, this synthesized call and another against
Hempstead High School were just one small part of a months-long,
nationwide campaign of dozens, and potentially hundreds, of threats made
by one swatter in particular who has weaponized computer generated voices.
Known as "Torswats" on the messaging app Telegram, the swatter has been
calling in bomb and mass shooting threats against highschools and other
locations across the country. Torswat's connection to these wide ranging
swatting incidents has not been previously reported. The further
automation of swatting techniques threatens to make an already dangerous
harassment technique more prevalent.
Swatting is when someone calls in a bogus threat in an attempt to direct
law enforcement resources to a particular home, school, or other location.
Often, swatting calls result in heavily armed police raiding an innocent
victim's home. At least one case has resulted in police killing the
Torswats carries out these threatening calls as part of a paid service
they offer. For $75, Torswats says they will close down a school. For $50,
Torswats says customers can buy "extreme swattings," in which authorities
will handcuff the victim and search the house. Torswats says they offer
discounts to returning customers, and can negotiate prices for "famous
people and targets such as Twitch streamers." Torswats says on their
Telegram channel that they take payment in cryptocurrency.
In the Hempstead High School case, authorities have charged a 16-year old
boy who allegedly ordered the threats with making a threat of terrorism.
But Torswats remains operational, publishing a steady stream of recordings
of their crimes as recently as last week. Arguably, Torswats' use of
synthetic voices allows them to carry out swatting threats at scale with
relatively little effort, while also protecting what their own voice
Motherboard has determined that Torswats` other targets include a CBD shop
in Florida; the corporate headquarters of a Bethesda, Maryland,
intelligence company that tracks extremism; and multiple private
residences across Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas, California, and more.
"The FBI takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at
risk," Steve Bernd, public affairs at FBI Seattle, told Motherboard in an
email. Bernd said FBI Seattle was aware of the threats made against
Hempstead High School. "These calls are dangerous to first responders and
to the victims. 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
Motherboard's reporting on Torswats comes as something of a nationwide
swatting trend spreads across the United States. In October, NPR reported
that 182 schools in 28 states received fake threat calls. Torswats' use of
a computer generated voice also comes as the rise of artificial
intelligence poses even greater risks to those who may face harassment
online. In February, Motherboard reported that someone had doxed and
harassed a series of voice actors by having an artificial intelligence
program read out their home addresses. Motherboard has also long reported
on the threat posed by deepfakes, which are artificially generated videos
of people, often without their consent. Deepfakes started as a tool to
create non-consensual pornography of specific people.
On their Telegram channel, Torswats has uploaded at least 35 distinct
recordings of calls they appear to have made. Torswats may have made many
more swatting calls on others' behalf, though: each filename includes a
number, with the most recent going up to 170. Torswats also recently
shuttered their channel before reappearing on Telegram in February.
In all of those 35 recordings except two, Torswats appears to have used a
synthesized voice. The majority of the calls are made with a fake male
sounding voice; several include a woman which also appears to be computer
Torswats is seemingly able to change what the voice is saying in something
close to real-time in order to respond to the operator's questions. These
sometimes include "where are you located," "what happened," and "what is
Motherboard listened to dozens of calls uploaded by Torswats and
cross-referenced them with local media reports to determine some of the
impact and geographical spread of the swatter's threats. The media reports
did not mention Torswats or the use of a computer generated voice, but
Motherboard was able to link multiple reported swatting incidents to the
recordings uploaded by Torswats. (Motherboard redacted some private
information in some of the calls embedded in this piece.)
"In this specific case, the calls to 911 were placed with an automated
or synthesized voice."
In other cases, Motherboard used the address in the swatting call to
identify the target. One example was SITE Intelligence Group, a private
intelligence company that tracks extremism. In the Torswats uploaded call,
the male synthetic voice claims they are making the threat in the name of
the Order of the Nine Angles, a satanic neo-Nazi group. It is not clear if
the claimed link to the group is genuine or misdirection. In March, SITE
published a report about Telegram users who offer bomb threats and
swatting calls for money. SITE did not respond to a request for comment.
In the case of Hempstead High School, Brendan Welsh, public information
officer at the Dubuque Police Department, which responded to the incident,
confirmed to Motherboard that an automated voice was used.
"In this specific case, the calls to 911 were placed with an automated or
synthesized voice. On a grander scale though, this investigation continues
as we believe our local student was working with another subject outside
of our jurisdiction to plan and make these threats," he told Motherboard
in an email. Welsh added that the Cedar Rapids FBI field office assisted
the investigation, and that FBI Seattle is working on a portion of the
investigation as well.
Last month, VICE News reported that multiple schools in Pennsylvania were
shut down after what were believed by authorities to be
"computer-generated swatting calls." It is not entirely clear if those
threats were made by Torswats or another entity.
In August, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed to have been swatted. A
"computer generated voice" took credit for the call, according to a police
report obtained by the Daily Dot.
At the end of March, authorities charged a 20 year old man, Ashton Connor
Garcia, for allegedly making more than 20 swatting calls in the U.S. and
Canada. The Associated Press reported prosecutors believe that Garcia used
Earlier this month, Torswats allegedly changed their tactics: they claimed
to have made a swatting call using their own voice.
"One of the first swattings I`ve done with my own voice in a long time
***," they wrote on their Telegram channel. Motherboard cannot verify if
this audio does indeed contain Torswats' own voice, but the call does not
appear to be using a synthesized voice.
In the subsequent recording, they start with much the same script as their
automated voice. "I've done something really bad and want to kill myself,"
they tell the operator. They then claim they came out to their parents as
a transgender woman, that they have an AR-15, and will shoot any police
"Forgot to cut off my laugh at the end," Torswats wrote on Telegram.
After publication of this article, Torswats deleted the audio recordings
from their Telegram channel and claimed they were stopping the service for
at least one month. "Time to dip a bit," they wrote on the channel.
Update: This piece has been updated to include that Torswats has now
deleted the recordings.
Tagged: CYBERSWAT Harrassment Artificial Intelligence AI
Text to Speech Order of the Nine Angles Privacy
Do you know anything else about how AI-powered voices are being abused?
We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can
contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on
josephcox, or email joseph.cox at vice.com.
More information about the cypherpunks