Threat Management

Pennyslvania man sentenced after ‘swatting’ prank

A 24-year-old Pennsylvania man was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he hacked into a neighbor's router to post a bomb threat on a local mall's website.

David Barnhouse wrote on Pennsylvania-based Willow Grove Park Mall's website in 2013: “We have planted an explosive device somewhere in the mall, and will detonate it unless all members of the Islamic faith imprisoned in the United States are freed by 7 p.m. on June 23.” He continued to say that, “Even if you search the mall for 72 consecutive hours, you will NEVER find it.”

Barnhouse's "swatting" prank led to increased mall security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) using a search warrant to search his neighbor's home, according to a Department of Justice press release.

When later using a “no-knock” search warrant to surprise him at his apartment, FBI agents found Barnhouse in front of his computer, which he immediately moved to unplug in an effort to encrypt the device, according to the complaint.

Barnhouse “physically resisted” the agents' attempts to separate him from the computer and, at one point, scratched an agent's throat in the process. He was eventually able to violently overcome efforts to restrain him and powered off his computer, effectively enacting the device's encryption. Once apprehended, agents discovered a note in his wallet with instructions for an individual to find and destroy his computer if something were to ever happen to him. 

In addition to his prison sentence, Barnhouse was ordered to three years of supervised release and restitution to the mall for increased security cost.

His house was previously searched unsuccessfully for the suspected distribution of child pornography. In that case, Barnhouse's computers were encrypted so agents were unable to access materials.

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