Cybercrime , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

CISA's Jen Easterly Confirms 'Harrowing' Swatting Attack

US Cyber Agency Director Is Latest High-Profile Target of Dangerous Swatting Attack
CISA's Jen Easterly Confirms 'Harrowing' Swatting Attack
U.S. CISA Director Jen Easterly speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2019 (Image: CC BY 2.0 Deed/Karlin Villondo)

The head of the U.S. cyber defense agency was the latest major political target of a swatting attack in what she described as a "harrowing" albeit "unfortunately not unique" experience.

See Also: Webinar | Don't Get Hacked in the Cloud: The Essential Guide to CISOcial Distancing

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, confirmed reports Monday about an incident involving false calls to the police that claimed a shooting had occurred in her Virginia residence on Dec. 30. Easterly was alone when police responded to the reports and confirmed that no shooting had occurred, according to a report from the Arlington County Police Department.

CISA confirmed Easterly was the apparent target of a swatting attack in a statement to Recorded Future News, describing the form of harassment as "one of the most troubling trends we have seen in recent years."

"While my own experience was certainly harrowing, it was unfortunately not unique," Easterly said. "In particular, several of our nation's election officials have also been targeted with this type of harassment and other threats of violence."

Easterly was referring to recent cases in which prominent lawmakers faced similar swatting attacks, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene , R-Ga., and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. The incidents involving Taylor Greene and Wu both occurred on Christmas Day. In a swatting attack, the attacker makes an illegal report from a spoofed telephone number to police about an alleged violent incident occurring at the residence of the target, in order to send armed police or even SWAT teams to that home.

Reports indicate that more than a dozen public officials have been targeted in swatting attacks since the Christmas holiday. The White House was even subjected to a swatting attempt earlier this month when a 911 call falsely alleged that a person was trapped inside during a fire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President Joe Biden was at Camp David at the time.

Easterly has remained a largely apolitical member of the Biden administration, and she lacks the name recognition or controversial status of Greene and some others who have faced swatting attempts. But CISA has become an increasingly controversial focal point for some conservative lawmakers who want to strip the agency's funding as it aims to secure the 2024 election.

"The men and women of both parties who run our elections work tirelessly to ensure their security and integrity," Easterly said. "We at CISA, along with our partners, will continue to support these election heroes as they work every day to safeguard our most sacred democratic process."

CISA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FBI established a national online database in May 2023 to begin tracking and sharing information on swatting incidents nationwide. The bureau has reportedly tracked more than 120 swatting incidents since the database was launched.

About the Author

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta

Managing Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Riotta is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president. His reporting has appeared in NBC News, Nextgov/FCW, Newsweek Magazine, The Independent and more.

Around the Network

Our website uses cookies. Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing, you agree to our use of cookies.