Ontario Court Justice Mitch Hoffman found Curtis Gervais, a 19-year-old “hacker,” was found guilty of 34 charges connected to dozens of swatting incidents in the US and Canada. As a result, Hoffman handed down a nine month sentence. As soon as the sentence was read, the family and defense council filed an appeal, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
In what some view as a series of events linked to a single mishap with a classmate, Gervais called police departments across North America with fake bomb threats and reports of active shooter situations. Swatting is defined as exactly this type of behavior: conveying fraudulent information to emergency services—usually law enforcement—in an attempt to send a “SWAT” unit (or similar) to the fictional crime scene. Gervais used this tactic (bomb threats) to shut schools down temporarily.
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One of the teenager’s tweets read, “Breaking news: Northwood High school about to be put on lockdown, gunman on sight, killing. Police dispatched.” The majority are similar.
Much of the newsworthy incidents began after a classmate allegedly pranked and scared Gervais. The classmate had plugged a mouse into the teenager’s computer while the computer was unattended. When Gervais next accessed it, the classmate played with the mouse and scared Gervais into temporarily believing that his computer was under surveillance. So the story went, at least.
Gervais doxed the classmate and the classmate’s family and swatted the school with the student’s information. This, according to an internet entity claiming to be the mother of the classmate, resulted in law enforcement grabbing her son and questioning him for seven hours.
Under the Twitter handle “ProbablyOnion” and “ProbablyOnion2,” Gervais boasted of his swatting successes on what seemed like a daily basis. (Someone doxed Gervais at some point and the document revealed dozens of aliases, but the Onion ones mattered the most in this case.) The full paste is still available on Brian Krebs’s site. Krebs, an investigative security researcher, was once “successfully” swatted by a similar teenage hacker.
Naturally, Gervais attempted, on numerous occasions, to swat Krebs. According to the researcher’s site and Twitter account, the attempts never succeeded. In one Tweet, Gervais wrote, “@briankrebs how’s your door?” Krebs, who infrequently responded to Gervais, wrote back, “@ProbablyOnion2 door’s fine, Curtis. But I’m guessing yours won’t be soon. Nice opsec!”
The swatter became the subject of a multi agency investigation. In an FBI press release, the list of Canadian and American law enforcement entities investigating “ProbablyOnion2” took up an entire paragraph. And Gervais taunted them constantly. One of his later Tweets, a uniquely self-fulfilling one, read as follows: “I’d actually challenge the RCMP to knock at my door.”
Police caught and charged him with 60 crimes “including uttering death threats, conveying false information with intent to alarm, public mischief and mischief to property.” Judge Hoffman, in the middle of September 2017, convicted Gervais of 34 of the charges. The nine month sentence will be spent at both a group home and his own home – under strict conditions. He is forbidden to access Twitter and Skype; must forfeit his home computer; must complete 700 hours of community service at a technical support company; complete 200 hours volunteering at a food bank; and ride out an 18 month probation term.
Unless his appeal results in a change of plans, that is.