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SWAT Raids, Damages Wrong Home Due To Flaky IP Address Evidence

Posted by: , 13:12 EST, Fri June 29, 2012

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SWAT team raids home of person suspected of making threats against police online, only to find out after the raid that the IP address evidence they obtained pointed to the wrong house, due to the home's unsecured Wi-Fi connection
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Another blow has been dealt to the usefulness of IP address evidence. A SWAT team in Evansville Indiana, responding to a threat against police posted on a message board, busted in and raided the house of the accused. Except, due to the flaky nature of IP address evidence, they raided the wrong house!

With local reporters in tow, and the entire operation caught on camera (see video of the raid here) as a show of force, embarrassed police officers soon realised the frightened family whose home they've just raided was not the right one.

The incident started with a posting on Topix in which a poster, nicknamed "US Army", posted non specific threats to Evansville police, including threats against the wives and children of police officers. The post even mentioned the use of explosives, which explains why any response needed to include the participation of a SWAT team, and for the action to be taken without warning.

Unfortunately for the police though, it turns out the IP address they sourced from Topix for the poster actually belonged to an unsecured Wi-Fi router, meaning that the threat could have been made by anyone driving past the raided home. This was not evident until police had already broken in, damaging a screen door and windows, as well as using flashbangs, on the unsuspecting household, who's front door was actually open at the time. The city has promised to repair all damages.

Eventually, the police traced the threat to another home on the same street. This time, they did not employ a SWAT team due to the fact that small children were possibly present in the home. A "smart mouthed" teenager was the eventual suspect.

The lesson here is that making threats to police online is usually not a wise thing, and that securing your Wi-Fi connection is a must. But perhaps the more important lesson, for the police, is that IP address evidence should be used much more carefully, something that's only recently started to be recognized as an issue by law enforcement and the courts.


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