People and processes are often the weak link in our technological world:
Officers raced to the house, ready for an armed standoff with a homicidal suspect. But when they arrived, they found no gunman, no hostages, no blood. Danielle and her father were safe and sound at home — alone. They had never heard of John Defanno, for good reason: He didn’t exist.
“John Defanno” was actually a 15-year-old boy named Matthew Weigman — a fat, lonely blind kid who lived with his mom in a working-class neighborhood of East Boston.
In person, Weigman was a shy and awkward teenager with a shaved head who spent his days holed up in his room, often talking for up to 20 hours a day on free telephone chat lines. On the phone, he became “Lil’ Hacker,” the most skilled member of a small band of telephone pranksters known as “phreaks.” To punish Danielle, who had pissed him off on a chat line, Weigman had phoned 911 and posed as a psycho, rigging his caller ID to make it look like the emergency call was coming from inside Danielle’s home. It’s a trick known as “swatting” — mobilizing SWAT teams to exact revenge on your enemies — and phreakers like Weigman have used it to trigger some 200 false raids in dozens of cities nationwide.