Man accused of hacking into 911

Man accused of hacking into 911
Man accused of hacking into 911

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By Salvador Hernandez
The Orange County Register
October 16, 2007

LAKE FOREST =E2=80=93 SWAT officers expected to find a victim shot to death, 
drugs and a belligerent armed suspect when they surrounded the home of 
an unsuspecting couple, but found they were only a part of a false 
emergency call caused by a teenager who hacked into the county=E2=80=99s 
emergency response system, authorities said.

As officers swarmed the home with assault rifles, dogs and a helicopter, 
a Lake Forest couple and their two toddlers inside their home slept 

On March 29 at 11:30 p.m., authorities allege, Randall Ellis, a 
19-year-old from Mukilteo, Wash., hacked into the county=E2=80=99s 911 system 
from his home and placed a false emergency call, prompting a fully armed 
response to the home of an unsuspecting couple that could have ended 

Thinking that a prowler was roaming his back yard, a resident of the 
home, identified only as Doug B. in the district attorney=E2=80=99s complaint 
filed in court, walked outside with a kitchen knife as SWAT officers 
from the Orange County Sheriff=E2=80=99s Department waited with assault rifles.

=E2=80=9CIt was just a horrifying experience,=E2=80=9D said Doug B., who requested not 
to be identified further. =E2=80=9CYou think you feel safe in your own home=2E We 
had no idea what was going on.=E2=80=9D

Doug B. and his wife did not feel safe in their home for weeks after the 
incident and wondered why their home was the one selected.

Doug B. was not able to go back to sleep for hours that night, and he 
rigged the doors and windows before he was able to go to bed.

=E2=80=9CI thought someone was in my back yard, and they were going to get my 
family,=E2=80=9D he said. =E2=80=9CIt was terrifying for months afterward.=E2=80=9D

Officers apprehended and cuffed the resident and his wife, identified as 
Stacy B. It was moments later they learned the call was false, said Lt. 
Mike McHenry of the South County Investigations Bureau.

=E2=80=9CThe danger is significant,=E2=80=9D said Lt. Don Barnes, chief of police 
services for Lake Forest. =E2=80=9CThat (situation) played out OK, although it 
scared the victims significantly.=E2=80=9D

Ellis is expected to appear in an Orange County courtroom Monday to face 
charges of computer access and fraud, false imprisonment by violence, 
falsely reporting a crime and assault with an assault weapon by proxy.

=E2=80=9CIt=E2=80=99s not a prank,=E2=80=9D Emami said. =E2=80=9CPeople=E2=80=99s lives were in danger.=E2=80=9D

Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney=E2=80=99s 
Office, said

Ellis selected the couple=E2=80=99s name and address at random and 
electronically transferred false information into the 911 system.

Authorities believe this is not the only time that Ellis has done this. 
As part of their investigation, authorities believe Ellis created 
similar false SWAT responses in Bullhead, Ariz.; Millcreek Township, 
Pa.; and in his hometown of Mukilteo, Wash.

False 911 calls are placed all the time, McHenry said, but he said this 
is the first time someone has hacked into Orange County=E2=80=99s system and 
created a false call in this way.

=E2=80=9CWe=E2=80=99ve seen nothing like this,=E2=80=9D McHenry said. =E2=80=9CThis was unique. This was 
pretty serious.=E2=80=9D

Other law enforcement agencies have seen similar breaches into their 911 
systems as part of a trend picked up by computer hackers in the nation 
called =E2=80=9CSWATting=E2=80=9D, Barnes said.

The purpose is to create a false 911 call that appears to be coming from 
the residence in question and prompt a SWAT response from local law 
enforcement agencies, Barnes said.

Authorities would not divulge details on how Ellis hacked into the 
system, stating that doing so would jeopardize the investigation and 
possibly create copycats. But the call that prompted a full response to 
the Lake Forest home started as a call to the Orange County Fire 
Authority as a drug overdose and progressed into a possible murder, 
McHenry said.

A supposed teenager stated someone had overdosed on cocaine. The 
teenager then stated he had been shot in the shoulder and that attackers 
were going to go shoot and kill his sister, he said.

Canines, a helicopter and SWAT officers responded to the false call.

=E2=80=9CIt was a pretty large response,=E2=80=9D McHenry said.

Through electronic forensics, investigators were able to link Ellis to 
the false call, Emami said.

Ellis does not appear to have a criminal record, Emami said, but it 
looks like he=E2=80=99s done this before. He was taken into custody by 
authorities in Mukilteo on Friday. He waived extradition Monday in court 
and is expected to appear in Orange County Superior Court on Oct. 22 for 
an arraignment hearing.

Now Doug B. said he is hoping that the upcoming court proceedings can 
shed some light into why this happened and why his family was targeted.

=E2=80=9CMy family is my life and to feel like its being threatened is 
horrifying,=E2=80=9D he said.

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