How to protect yourself when thieves target your IP address

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — We have limitless information right at our fingertips and some of that information is very sensitive, but it’s that sensitive info that cyber-criminals are looking for.

“Your Alexas, yout TiVos, your wireless devices – everything that you have that connecting to the internet has an IP address,” said cybersecurity expert Michael Pfaff with Network Data Security Experts.

For the most part, an IP address is a geographic location of the device – like a computer, and that’s what led a young video gaming couple to fall victim to a weekend swatting prank.

“There’s police at your door,” said Andrew Kristensen, recounting the experience.

Armed officers surrounded the home of Andrew and Judy Kristensen this past Saturday while the two were livestreaming video games. Investigators say someone made a prank call to Chesterfield police that someone had been murdered and people were being held hostage at the Kristensen’s home.

“When you go into a gaming environment, you’re establishing a connection with remote locations, and many people in that same remote location. So if they wanted to be vicious or malicious, they could find a way back to you," Pfaff said.

While your public IP address remains public, Pfaff says there are ways to keep yourself off the radar.

By Enzo Domingo | September 18, 2019 at 6:06 PM EDT - Updated September 18 at 6:06 PM
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - We have limitless information right at our fingertips and some of that information is very sensitive, but it’s that sensitive info that cyber-criminals are looking for.

“Your Alexas, yout TiVos, your wireless devices – everything that you have that connecting to the internet has an IP address,” said cybersecurity expert Michael Pfaff with Network Data Security Experts.

For the most part, an IP address is a geographic location of the device – like a computer, and that’s what led a young video gaming couple to fall victim to a weekend swatting prank.

“There’s police at your door,” said Andrew Kristensen, recounting the experience.

Armed officers surrounded the home of Andrew and Judy Kristensen this past Saturday while the two were livestreaming video games. Investigators say someone made a prank call to Chesterfield police that someone had been murdered and people were being held hostage at the Kristensen’s home.

“When you go into a gaming environment, you’re establishing a connection with remote locations, and many people in that same remote location. So if they wanted to be vicious or malicious, they could find a way back to you," Pfaff said.

While your public IP address remains public, Pfaff says there are ways to keep yourself off the radar.

“Don’t advertise who you are at every site. Keep your information to you. The more you look attractive to someone, the more they’re going to make attempts at your address or your information.”

Pfaff suggests making it harder to get to your info with regular password changes and two-step authentication.

“Things you do, things you say. Somebody’s watching that, somebody’s paying attention to that. So, how much information do you want to give up?" he said.

He adds that while swatting pranks do happen to members of the general public, primarily cyberattackers go for high profile targets like business or municipalities.

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