Question How a VPN helped get me swatted

I would like to share an experience we had, mostly to serve as a bit of a warning.

I work from home and run a fire safety company. We have a lot of internet traffic coming and going and in order to help protect the privacy and security of this information we thought it would be a good idea to have a VPN.
A side note to this is that we had a running argument going with some of our neighbors over (them) feeding deer and (me) hunting them....sort of a Stepford Wives thing going on in the neighborhood but the whole altercation put us on the wrong side of the opinion of that group within the neighborhood. One of the husbands within the group is a high up within the police force for our locality.

So, running a small business we have techs stopping in all the time, coming and going with paperwork, money, supplies, tools and such things you have to go to your work office for. Along with the high level of internet traffic. The mad neighbors seized on this as an opportunity to use the aforementioned husbands influence with the police force to convince someone over there that we were dealing drugs. They went so far as to place undercover officers up and down our street for over 4 months surveilling us. We knew it, even got told by one of the "cool" neighbors that it was going on. We weren't doing anything, so it seemed like some funny joke....

Well, when 20 fully armed and geared up SWAT team members broke through our front door and took the entire family to jail, it wasn't so funny.
It turned out later on, when we were able to get copies of all the court documents, that during the surveillance activities that a device was installed to monitor our phone and internet traffic. Specific concerns were raised by the "team" and then the judge that we had "high volumes of internet traffic that was being concealed".
The warrants that were drawn up specifically mentioned finding drug money, ledgers, computers, phones, notebooks, etc. used in the commission of crimes related to selling drugs, and the concealment and movement of monies.
The entire thing a direct result of utilizing a VPN and a stupid argument.

It turns out that where we WEREN'T selling drugs or running a money laundering operation that the police agents seeing our techs come and go, the internet traffic, and finding a small amount of marijuana in our son's room when they served the warrant was all they needed to cart us all off to jail and the subsequent legal troubles from said. The whole thing cost us thousands of dollars and more. It sucks that the weed was in the house....but certainly didn't justify the cost to our taxpayers and ourselves. Be aware that using a VPN isn't always looked at by those who would wish to know what you are up to as "security", but hiding something.
 

Barty1884

Titan
Moderator
Wow, sucks that that happened.

Be aware that using a VPN isn't always looked at by those who would wish to know what you are up to as "security", but hiding something.
By design, it is "hiding something", but I see what you're saying.

we have techs stopping in all the time, coming and going with paperwork, money, supplies, tools and such things you have to go to your work office for.

The mad neighbors seized on this as an opportunity to use the aforementioned husbands influence with the police force to convince someone over there that we were dealing drugs. They went so far as to place undercover officers up and down our street for over 4 months surveilling us.
Makes you wonder how stupid drug dealers are, for that to be believable.
While I think it would be a terrible business practice for a drug dealer to have a constant stream of people in/out of their house.... I'd assume their traffic would be all hours of the day, probably more dense outside of legit 'business hours'?

Unless you have techs coming by constantly between say 8pm-5am, that's definitely an overreach.

Surely at some point, one surveillance person must've said
"Wow, can you believe this dealer works a 9-5(+/-)" 😂


One of the husbands within the group is a high up within the police force for our locality.
Not a lawyer, but I feel like there's something to this....especially in the litigious US.
Definitely seems like an abuse of power resulting from a personal vendentta.
Whether there's anything that would 'stick' is another question, of course.

I'm assuming you're a registered business? So they would've checked that and logically, people coming & going would've checked out?
 
Reactions: punkncat

tennis2

Honorable
Look, I understand the whole "VPN could raise suspicions" bit...to a degree, but this don't smell right. Either there's more to this story that you're not sharing, or this is corruption at its worst. What country are you in?

When did this happen? In 2020, when MANY people are working from home and linking to their company servers over VPN also?

Unless you have techs coming by constantly between say 8pm-5am, that's definitely an overreach.
Agreed.
Surely at some point, one surveillance person must've said
"Wow, can you believe this dealer works a 9-5(+/-)"
Agreed.
Not a lawyer, but I feel like there's something to this....especially in the litigious US.
Definitely seems like an abuse of power resulting from a personal vendentta.
Whether there's anything that would 'stick' is another question, of course.
Yeah, I was thinking abuse of power also. I'd bet you have pretty easy grounds for a counter-suit. Legal fees, loss of revenue, distress, etc etc (I'm not a lawyer, so I dunno what all they can tack on). You can probably get a person or two fired/demoted also. Go to town.
I'm assuming you're a registered business? So they would've checked that and logically, people coming & going would've checked out?
No kidding. This should've never even graduated past a day of surveylance. Certainly no challenge for any lawyer (even court appointed) to easily overturn.
 
Reactions: punkncat
^ For sure there is WELL more to it than the broad strokes. Admittedly mostly being my fault in how I reacted to said group of neighbors. Our (edit- I say "our" but is owned by a different individual) business is not registered here, we run operations and billing and much of the time is FAR more than a 9-5 operation....sometimes even 24 hours. A sprinkler pipe busts and...

We hired a VERY high profile lawyer that cost us a great deal of money, and someone I had dealt with before. He used to be exceptional at his practice and made a name for himself with cases much like this. We were fast tracked through the entire process and kept getting told, even by him, that there was nothing to be done. For REAL, things that mattered were that we were "shredding part of our trash" (work mail). The judge, our lawyer, and the prosecutor were summarily disinterested in any other thing but the framework of the accusation. We were made out to be some kind of cartel members and the finding of a few grams of personal stash in a teenage boys room seemed to make reality spin off into more of a storyline for the Twilight Zone. It really was a surreal experience.
 

tennis2

Honorable
So you're running an "illegal" business? (not registered presumably means not paying taxes)

In that case, probably best to let a sleeping dog lie. Take it on the chin and be glad they didn't get you for tax evasion.
 
So you're running an "illegal" business? (not registered presumably means not paying taxes)

In that case, probably best to let a sleeping dog lie. Take it on the chin and be glad they didn't get you for tax evasion.
NO absolutely NOT. We are not the owners of the business. We run operations and such from our home, our internet but the business address isn't here. No paperwork shows THIS as being the office. Technically the office is and can be anywhere there is internet and phone service. Virtual IS for sure cool that way.
 

Barty1884

Titan
Moderator
business is not registered here.
NO absolutely NOT. We are not the owners of the business. We run operations and such from our home, our internet but the business address isn't here. No paperwork shows THIS as being the office. Technically the office is and can be anywhere there is internet and phone service. Virtual IS for sure cool that way.
But a business needs an address to be registered.... and if your home IS the location, and you'd have business insurance with (at least) premises liability for visitors to the site, then it's a little suspect (on the face of it) that this address isn't registered anywhere to do with the business.

While theoretically the work could be performed anywhere with internet & phone.... If you constantly need techs to visit your address, could it though? A reasonable expectation with a job that can be performed 'anywhere there's X', would mean (for example) you could perform exactly the same function while on vacation in a foreign country. Doesn't sound like the case here, but obviously I don't know (or need to know) full specifics.

FAR more than a 9-5 operation....sometimes even 24 hours.
Given the additional factors, I think the VPN played a very, very minimal component here, if at all.

From what you've shared, I don't think a neighbour suspicion is unrealistic honestly.
I'm assuming the neighbour(s) you have bad blood with know what's actually going on and merely raised this to be a pain. But I could see how a neighbour could interpret what you're describing as dealing if they didn't know the true story.

Between an allegation, multiple visitors to the address at 'odd' hours and the lack of a legit (on paper) reason for the frequency.... The allegation would appear much more legit. The VPN would be an added layer of suspicion, to a preconceived idea.

Still sucks this happened to you. Just my $0.02
 

tennis2

Honorable
We run operations and such from our home, our internet but the business address isn't here. No paperwork shows THIS as being the office. Technically the office is and can be anywhere there is internet and phone service. Virtual IS for sure cool that way.
Hmmmmm, stinky. Seems those silly pigs had their noses in the wrong bucket.

I'm sure this is all actually legit as you're implying, but our lack of information leads us to connect the dots we're given...
Nonetheless, interesting.

What country?
 
Lol, a few things....mod I accidentally up and down voted tennis' above reply.


Our business address is registered to the owner at his address. That is the "business" address. Our "delivery address" is down the street at the storage shop. Operations happen from here, or any of the other 4 office employees, none of which are on any documentation (other than payroll, I suppose).

This happened in the land of Bald Eagles.

In my looking back on the happening, if I hadn't had the argument that would likely have never started the series of events that led to surveillance, our trash being picked through and monitoring devices being installed that found we were hiding internet traffic....and in addition to the other contributing factors.

It sucked, for sure.
 

Barty1884

Titan
Moderator
Our business address is registered to the owner at his address. That is the "business" address. Our "delivery address" is down the street at the storage shop. Operations happen from here, or any of the other 4 office employees, none of which are on any documentation (other than payroll, I suppose).
I get you can't state exactly what you do from home.... but with deliveries & a shop down the street (assuming parts etc are there too), then I don't get why techs are frequently at your home - which is where the suspicion would've arisen.
 
I get you can't state exactly what you do from home.... but with deliveries & a shop down the street (assuming parts etc are there too), then I don't get why techs are frequently at your home - which is where the suspicion would've arisen.

As mentioned above we do operations and billing from here. Our work is service oriented and requires signed paperwork, as well as an authorizing work order on a good portion as well. It is not uncommon for them to have to come here and pick up or drop off work orders, signed documents, plans (that we have to send out to have digitized), checks for suppliers, and so forth. We try to do most of this digitally and have gotten more efficient at it since this happened. Still, some people are good at say, fixing a leaking sprinkler head, and yet have no idea what to do with a tablet and a signable .pdf. Paper is super easy to understand....and scan later....

Prior to this happening we actually HAD a social life too, but we don't have anyone over any more. (sad face)

Where I really can't get more specific, consider the details above about the neighborhood friend group, AKA Stepfords, the husband, and the feeding and subsequent hunting....
 

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