Caveat 1.4.24
Ep 200 | 1.4.24

Swatting gets out of control.


Caleb Barlow: Swatting also involves a cyber nexus. You know, you can hire somebody on the dark web to make those fake calls and that's where a lot of this stuff begins. And like any type of incident, we need run books and preparation. And I think there's a lot we can learn out of this incident. So that's first off why I even think this fits in our swim lane to talk about.

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Caveat," the CyberWire's law and policy podcast. I'm Dave Bittner and joining me is my co-host, Ben Yelin, from the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security. Hello, Ben.

Ben Yelin: Hello, Dave.

Dave Bittner: On this episode, we have our very special guest, Caleb Barlow from Cyberbit. He joins us with a conversation about swatting. While this show covers legal topics and Ben is a lawyer, the views expressed do not constitute legal advice. For official legal advice on any of the topics we cover, please contact your attorney. [ Music ] Alright, Ben, so it is always a pleasure to welcome back to the show Caleb Barlow. Caleb, thanks for taking the time for us today.

Caleb Barlow: Oh, happy to be here, guys.

Dave Bittner: So we are going to dig in today on a very interesting case that involves swatting here. Caleb, you want to set the scene for us? What are we talking about today?

Caleb Barlow: Well first of all, let's talk about why we're talking about this. Like why is this in our swim lane? And you know, first off, swatting often involves a cyber nexus. You know, you can hire somebody on the dark web to make those fake calls. And that's where a lot of this stuff begins. And swatting can impact individuals, like if many people remember back to when Brian Krebs, who's obviously pretty famous in the cybersecurity industry, was swatted. In his home. Or you know, businesses, public places. And like any type of incident, we need run books and preparation. And I think there's a lot we can learn out of this incident. So that's first off why I think this even fits in our swim lane to talk about, Dave.

Dave Bittner: And there's been some deaths. People have died from being swatted. Only a handful, but it has happened. And we actually saw over the holiday break several members of Congress were swatted as well.

Caleb Barlow: I was just going to say that. Including permanent ones. I know Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia's been swatted like five times. Whatever you think of her, like that's really, really bad.

Dave Bittner: Yeah.

Caleb Barlow: Yeah. Well, and the thing is, you know, I think part of what we have to talk about, and that's why this incident's such a good case study is the mere act of lots of police responding with guns drawn to an incident. And people's reaction to that can easily go sideways. And what we're going to talk about is a really good case study. So let me kind of set the stage here. So this was a swatting incident purporting to be a school shooting, okay? Now, we're not going to mention the name of the school or the police department. I don't want to cause any undue harm here. In fact, why this is so interesting, is all those people did everything right. Now, this is a true story. It actually happened. And it's a well-funded private high school in Massachusetts. Faculty, staff, students, they all drilled. You know, this is a school that had all the preparation in place. They had an emergency notification system to students, faculty, and parents in place. They had the ability to lock down the entire school. And most importantly, they had taken the steps to practice with their local police department on the response. So you know, well prepared, well funded, no issues there. It should also be known as we talk about this and why this is such a good case study, is nobody was actually hurt. So you know, no one died here. But things went horribly wrong. And the way this went down is the swatting incident begins and on the same day, multiple calls were made to multiple calls -- multiple schools in Massachusetts pretending to be school shooters. Now, at the other schools, the police showed up, they realized that there wasn't a shooter, and everybody kind of quickly stood down. And unfortunately, I think most schools are now kind of used to getting an occasional swatting incident or a bomb threat. And they have good policies and procedures for this.

Dave Bittner: Yeah, let me just interject. I mean, I -- as someone who has a high schooler, you know, they drill for this. They have their lockdown drills.

Ben Yelin: I can one-up you. I was at my daughter's elementary school, she's in first grade, for a Christmas party, and they had a lockdown drill while all the parents were there. I was locked down in the lobby. It was a drill but it was just kind of one of those reminders of the age we live in.

Dave Bittner: Yeah.

Caleb Barlow: Now, well, and I can one-up both of you in that my child actually went to this school which is why I know so much about this incident.

Dave Bittner: Alright.

Caleb Barlow: So I can also give you a little bit from the parents' perspective here as well. So let's talk about what happened. Okay. So local police get a call on their business line. There's a person in the bathroom at the high school with a long gun. Six to eight officers immediately respond. And we should note that the police department is literally down the other end of the street from the high school. So it takes mere seconds for the police to get to the school, the first responding officer jumps the curb with their police car, drives it right down the sidewalk, enters the school with a long gun drawn, now this is happening so quickly that simultaneously the police are calling the school to let them know that they've had a report of a swatting incident literally at the same time the first officer's walking in the door. That officer tells students to run as they enter the building. The initial group of officers enters the bathroom, determines that there's no threat, there's no shooter, and I think they quickly start to realize that this is a nothing burger. And you can -- there's video of this, and you can actually see the officers start to stand down, holster their weapons. But this is where things go sideways. So one of the officers, as he's holstering his weapon, it gets caught on his belt. And the weapon discharges into the floor. Now luckily, again, this is the officer, no one was hurt, but now you have a shot fired inside of a school. And remember, this is a school where people are well-trained. They have rehearsed this. Every teacher in that school knows if they hear a shot fired, immediately dial 9-1-1. 9-1-1 is immediately flooded with calls from the school. Shots fired, active shooter in the school.

Dave Bittner: Which is kind of true.

Caleb Barlow: Well, it is true. They're doing exactly what they were trained.

Dave Bittner: Right.

Caleb Barlow: Okay? An announcement goes out over the loudspeaker at the school. And I've heard this recording. From an administrator, active shooter. And the administrator is nearly in tears. So you can imagine the reaction that this then causes across -- and this is a campus, it isn't just one building. Across the entire campus. So this now goes to a full response from 9-1-1. Now what that means is it turns out the state police barracks. Now a whole barracks. Is on the other end of the street from this school. The entire barracks enters out and heads towards this school. 12 local police departments immediately self deploy. Because this is what they're trained to do. They hear a school shooting, they hear active shooter, they don't even wait for the school from mutual aid, they immediately respond. Now, what also happens though is in every classroom where this announcement has gone out over the loudspeaker. They're trained flee, hide, or fight. Flee was chosen by many of the students and the faculty on the first floor. They literally ran into the woods. Hide was chosen by the faculty and students on upper floors. And about the same time as they start barricading themselves in classrooms, the regional SWAT, and in this area of Massachusetts, each police department has a couple of members of the police department, they're part of a regional SWAT team, they all have their own gear and vehicles. So now there are literally dozens and dozens of SWAT vehicles. Everything from, you know, old police vans to, you know, tactical units headed towards this school. Now, the response here of students and faculty is interesting. And again, this is what people are trained for. Flee, hide, or fight. But you can quickly gather where this could have gone very wrong. In some classrooms, and it should be noted, you know, they even had teachers in some of these classrooms that had actually been in tragic situations in school shootings before, when I say these classrooms were trashed, I am not exaggerating. If it was not nailed down, it went up against the door in these classrooms. Computers, desks, everything immediately thrown against the door. Causing I don't know how much damage. But quite consequential. Some of the stories were amazing, two, though, of people. Again, because they thought this was an active shooter. People on crutches and kids carrying them into the woods. Students staying with older teachers that were unable to run on their own to make sure that they could get to safety. Outside the school, seniors, because this was at the point of the year where seniors had already graduated, self-organized on social media to come get their underclassmen and transport them out of the area. There were kids that were found on I-95, which is near the school, a major interstate, hitchhiking home. Literally ran out to the highway and thumbed a way home. And other students going to pick them up. Neighbors opened their homes. But in some cases, actually grabbed their weapons and headed towards the school.

Dave Bittner: Wow.

Caleb Barlow: Yeah. Now, you can imagine a whole bunch of ways that can go wrong when you have a responding officer seeing somebody running towards the school with a gun.

Dave Bittner: Right.

Caleb Barlow: Local businesses organized to provide safe harbor for students and parents. In total, somewhere between 150 and 200 officers responded. Four to five helicopters were in the air. And all area schools went on lockdown. Quite a story. But again, what makes this so interesting for this forum is let's now talk about the implications of this, what can go wrong in the legal aspects of this.

Dave Bittner: Well, I mean, okay, so where's a good place to begin?

Ben Yelin: Should we start with who should be held responsible for this incident? From a legal perspective?

Dave Bittner: Sure.

Ben Yelin: Because that's where things get really interesting. And a soon as I heard this story. Something triggered my brain to my 1L Torts class. Which is really the worst place your brain can trigger you to.

Caleb Barlow: I hear that's a incredibly exciting class.

Ben Yelin: I -- that was like a three cup of coffee class for me. Con law was like a one cup of coffee, this was yeah, maybe four. But there was this famous case, of course I couldn't remember the name of it, but I pulled it up, called Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. And for those of you who are attorneys, you definitely learned about this case in law school, though you might have forgotten about it. And I'm just going to briefly describe the facts of this case and tell me if you think this sounds familiar. So a woman named Helen Palsgraf was waiting at a Long Island Railroad station. This is in 1924. She's trying to take her daughters to the beach. Two guys tried to board the train before hers. One of them was being aided by a railroad employee. So there was a guy who was like pushing this other individual onto a moving train. This guy was carrying a package. That package exploded. That explosion caused a large, quote, "coin-operated scale on the platform" to hit her. And she began to stammer. And she sued the railroad, basically alleging that the employees had been negligent. So she was trying to hold the Long Island Railroad Company liable for what happened to her here. What this is getting at is how you determine proximate causation in terms of legal responsibility in an instant like this. Generally any entity, whether it be a person, a cyber criminal, group of cyber criminals, is only going to be held liable if the consequences that flowed from their actions were reasonably foreseeable from their actions. And what the court held in this Long Island Railroad case is that what happened here, where a person's package fell, knocked over whatever it was, this coin-operated thing, scale on the platform, because that was a thing they had in the 20s apparently. 100 year anniversary of this case, by the way. So the court held the defendant could not be held liable for an injury that could not have reasonably been foreseen. And I'm wondering if you think this case is applicable to what happened here, and what the lesson would be if you think it is applicable in terms of who we hold responsible and how big of a punishment should be levied against the people who caused the swatting incident in the first place.

Caleb Barlow: Well and of course, what also gets -- you know, becomes an interesting kind of variable on this is, you know, in this case I don't think anybody has any idea who caused it. In some cases, this could be some, you know, individual far, far away just trying to cause disruption. It could be a kid that, you know, didn't want to take their exam today. Or it could be some form of protest in any number of reasons. Right? But you know, there are kind of two actors that are often involved in this. The person that paid for it, and more often than not, the cyber criminal offering the service to make the phone call in the dark web. Because unless you're a stupid cyber criminal, you're not making this phone call from your cell phone.

Ben Yelin: And there are stupid criminals out there!

Caleb Barlow: There are, too. There are, too.

Ben Yelin: I've watched enough Jay Leno episodes over the years.

Caleb Barlow: In general.

Dave Bittner: "Crooks are Stupid."

Ben Yelin: Yeah.

Caleb Barlow: But I guess my question for you would be let's just say law enforcement figured all this out, right? Like, how do you divide up responsibility from the person running the service versus the person that paid for it?

Ben Yelin: That's a really interesting question. I mean, I think they're both -- they should both be held liable. Because it's somebody who had a criminal state of mind. And is an accomplice here. Basically solicited somebody else to commit the crime, and then the person who committed the crime. I mean, I think --

Dave Bittner: It's like hiring a hitman.

Ben Yelin: Yeah! And in that case, the person who hires the hitman, if that person solicits the crime, they can be held responsible for that same predicate crime. So if I solicit Dave to commit a murder on my behalf, Dave is criminally liable for that murder, and I am criminally liable for that murder. The solicitation merges with that substantive offense. So I think from both a criminal and civil perspective, I think you hold both the payor, so the person who solicited the cyber criminal to make the call, and the cyber criminal himself, liable. And I think you have to hold them both jointly and separately liable as they say in our industry.

Caleb Barlow: Okay, well let me throw another wrinkle into this.

Ben Yelin: Alright.

Caleb Barlow: So, you know, on the dark web, these services exist. And they're everything from, you know, I can call in a bomb threat to I can, you know, claim that, you know, someone who works in your office is a, you know, is a sexual aggressor and you know, they've done these horrible things to me. And I've heard some of the tapes of these calls. Like anything, if you do it enough, you get really good at it. In this case, where you're calling around to multiple schools basically inflicting terror, does this cross the legal boundaries from a normal petty crime into some level of terrorism, in that I'm offering this service up for anybody to use to basically cause disruption across many, many communities?

Ben Yelin: I don't think this fits in the legal definition of terrorism.

Caleb Barlow: And why is that?

Ben Yelin: So, terror as like a colloquial term is one thing. But I think the crime of terrorism is described as committing a crime with some type of political purpose to cause widespread fear or apprehension among a population of people. And if you don't have like a broader goal in mind, generally that's the state of mind required for a federal terrorism charge. Is that there's some political element to it. Which makes it separate from just your standard garden variety criminal activity. That's my understanding of it.

Dave Bittner: Let me dig into a detail here. What about the police officer who accidently discharged their weapon? Is there any, even out of negligence -- suppose this went even worse than it did and someone did end up injured or, God forbid, killed. Would this officer have borne any responsibility for the negligence -- for escalating things through the negligent use of their firearm?

Ben Yelin: I mean, it depends on how you would evaluate negligence? So you'd compare this officer to a similarly situated officer. It's basically what would a reasonable officer have done under the circumstances. And you probably know this better than me, Caleb, like in this circumstance. Is this -- is what the officer did, is that A, unusual, and B, like, is there any indication a the officer was being negligent? Like maybe they didn't have the gun properly secured in their holster. Otherwise, I don't think there's any criminal or civil responsibility if it was just a straight accident absent negligence.

Caleb Barlow: Well, and I think in this case, I mean, this was obviously all done above board. There was an investigation. As far as I know, I think the officer was cleared of everything. I mean, here's someone who was putting their own life on the line to respond very rapidly to this school to save these kids from what they thought was a threat. But also what makes this such a good case study is there's video of all this. And I think you're going to include that link in the show notes. You can literally see the officer going to holster his weapon and get caught, it accidentally discharges. I think there's, in this case, there's very little question or doubt that this was just a freak accident. But you know, there's another piece of this, though, which is that we have trained and spent so much time especially around school shootings in amping up the response to ensure that we, you know, the responding officers mitigate the threat. What strikes me about this is that we haven't put anything into our run books and response plans for school shootings or even for a cyber incident on how do we deescalate? How do we rapidly spin an incident down? Because I think the thing we haven't recognized in our overall consciousness of this is during that period of time where we were operating on an elevated level of threat, we are also operating on an elevated level of risk. That accidents can happen, you know, you have police officers going down the road at high speeds. You have weapons drawn. You have, you know, people barricading themselves in rooms. Like there are lots of other things that can go wrong from the benign twisted ankle to somebody getting killed.

Dave Bittner: Yeah, I mean, that was going to be my next question. Was kind of the proportionality of the response. And from a policy point of view, how we prepare the communications between our schools and law enforcement? And what I'm thinking of here is if you had multiple swatting incidents in the same day across multiple schools, to me that's a red flag that there probably isn't anything to this. Or maybe it could be that someone is actually going after one school but they're calling in many as a misdirection. So you certainly have to consider that. But it seems to me like the point where the state police got involved, and you have multiple helicopters overhead, is that a proportional response?

Ben Yelin: And I get the precautionary principles here. I mean, if it were my child, I would want, you know, the brute force of local police and state police. And I understand people's impulses. But I don't know if we've really reckoned with that as a society. Like how much is too much in terms of mustering a response? And is there a level of response where it's so overwhelming that that entity should be liable, especially in civil court, for whatever happens as a result of that reaction? I don't think there's an easy moral answer to that question. Especially given how many real incidents we've seen. Well you know, one of the things I kind of bring to this that, you know, I spent a lot of time as you guys know from past conversations coming out of the fire in EMS world. Almost like another career when I was much younger. And you know, one of the interesting things you learn is let's say you respond to an incident, maybe it's a car accident, and someone has died. One of the things they train you is that your patients change, right? Up to the point that you believe that people are all alive when you respond to this car accident, your patient is the person in the car. Once you know they've deceased and you know, at least if you watch any crime shows, you know, the blanket comes out and they get covered up, your patients are the bystanders. And I think one of the things that people have realized is that you know, there is a mental and emotional impact on family or other people that are around and they train you to really make that shift. You know, once you know that you can't save the individual, how do you shift to the people that are around? And one of the things I think is so fascinating to learn out of this, because again, it escalated. No one was hurt. So we can very objectively look at it and say okay, how do we fine tune our policies? Once you realize that okay, this is indeed a nothing burger. And of course, you've got to go through the process of confirming that, of clearing the school. How do you deescalate rapidly? Because as long as you have young eyes seeing lots of police cars, sirens, parents responding in, thousands of text messages of all kinds of parade of horribles back and forth to parents of what's going on, how do you rapidly get everyone calmed down so you lessen the potential mental and long-term, you know, trauma that's going on to the people that are watching this and the students that are involved? So I will say when I read about the story from this school, that they did a good job post-hoc in terms of things like bringing in school counselors.

Caleb Barlow: It was amazing.

Ben Yelin: Yeah, I mean, that element of it is admirable and I think absolutely necessary. But I do think there has to be some kind of consideration on, you know, in the emergency management, EMS, law enforcement world, how -- what is the appropriate way to deescalate the situation to prevent additional harm once you've determined that the threat isn't real? And what's interesting to me is like what percentage of bomb threats do you guys think actually come to pass? Where there's actually a bomb? It's got to be less than 1%, right?

Dave Bittner: I would -- yeah, yeah.

Ben Yelin: So this is something that happens very frequently. And it still causes panic. But yeah, I mean, just that's a really difficult question to wrestle with. And I'm wondering if there's something that can be introduced in the emergency management world that's part of the cycle of preparedness where you go through your preparation plans and your response plans, your preparedness plans and your response plans, and then as part of that response, there's a focus on de-escalation.

Dave Bittner: Caleb, I'm curious, I mean, as someone who -- this was your community. And as you unpacked this after the fact, what was your thought process of considering how appropriate the various levels of response were? I mean, it seems to me like you have two levels of thought here. You have the emotional response of your child being in the middle of something like this. But then beyond that, when you get past that emotional response, there's the rational response of let me step outside my role as a parent and how do I feel. I'm curious, did you go through those two avenues?

Caleb Barlow: I really did. I mean the first thing that happened as I'm working and I hear a scream from my wife upstairs. Because she got a text from our son, "Active shooter, I love you."

Ben Yelin: Oh my gosh.

Caleb Barlow: What do you do with that? Now, okay. You know, I would at least like to consider myself someone that's calm under pressure. And I said alright, first of all, we have no idea what's going on. And my wife's first inclination was we need to head to the school. I'm like no, let's find out what's going on first. So, you know, I turned on Broadcastify where you can hear, you know, fire and EMS radios. And you know, I could immediately hear what was going on. And I went from zero to 60 in about 10 seconds. Because I realized oh, this actually is real. And then I hit my son with kind of alright let's break out my own run book on okay, where are you, where are your friends, barricade yourself or get up above the ceiling tiles. And luckily we were able to maintain texting communications back and forth for most of it. Mainly because he was on the second floor. One of the big lessons learned out of this, and I should mention first and foremost, the reason why I wanted to kind of bring this up as a case study is I truly believe everybody did everything by the book. Like I have, this was so great about this, is there really isn't a criticism you can lay on what anybody did. But we should all still take a step back and say how could we do better, right? You know this whole de-escalation issue came up. And I think the other thing that came up that I hadn't really thought about is you know, you can imagine people don't really worry about the ability to have good cell signal in schools because if there's not a good cell signal like there isn't on the first floor in most of these buildings, that's advantageous because kids aren't on their phones all day. But I think a lot of the parents' viewpoints really changed on that. That wait a second, not having the ability to communicate and know what's going on changes the response amongst parents in a very dramatic way. You know, the other issue is what happens if something was happening in you know, classroom five, and you can't get a cell signal to direct responders to the right place?

Ben Yelin: It's really interesting that you say this, I just did a project basically on this very subject. I was contracted to write a report on the advisability of having basically a panic button in public school systems. And there are a bunch of different ways a panic button could work. One of them is that an alert is automatically sent to all of the phones in a particular geofenced area. It turns out, and we got a lot of input from a bunch of different stakeholders, that what they really need is bidirectional antennae so that cell service is stronger within schools. And better CAD-to-CAD communications between law enforcement agencies. Computer Aided Dispatch. It's like one of those things where it's like did we solve the terrorism problem after 9-1-1 by engaging in a 20 year war in Afghanistan or was it as simple as we reinforce cockpit doors so that it was much harder for people with box cutters to get into the cockpits? And so sometimes I wonder if it's like maybe it's just these little things. Like improving cell service. Or improving communication infrastructure among these agencies that might actually be more effective in solving the problem than some of these radical solutions that are going to be polarizing and difficult to implement?

Caleb Barlow: Well the other thing I think we learned in this case study is that the community is going to respond. It's not a question of if, they're going to respond. You know, now whether that's a business, in this case it was a grocery store opened their parking lot and you know, their lobby so that parents had a place to collect their students. It was neighbors. So if the community's going to respond, you probably want to make sure they respond appropriately. Like, I mean, one example I use in this case is the neighbor that kind of got their weapon and headed toward the school. Now on one hand, there's part of me that wants to applaud that because you know, you're taking this selfless act to make sure that these kids are okay. On the other hand, I could see where that could have gone horribly wrong if seen by a responding police officer, right? So, you know, I think part of this is also engaging the community. And the way to do that is through cell phones to say hey, there's something going on here, shelter in place. Or be aware of this. Like the good news here I think when you engage the public, this is one of those events where when people are engaged they're going to step in and help, but you need to be able to guide that help. Or it could go in all kinds of bizarre situations. Another example being like literally there are a bunch of seniors that drove back to the school. To go pick up their friends. Okay, on one hand, incredible selfless act. You want to applaud the fact that, you know, all of these seniors realized their friends were in trouble and self-organized. On the other hand, you're literally driving yourself back into the target zone. Or what you thought was the target zone, what are you doing? So, you know, I think community engagement's critical.

Dave Bittner: We're going to take a quick break here. But more from our special guest, Caleb Barlow, when we come back. [ Music ] The point about cell phones that I remember, I'm old enough and I guess, well certainly, Caleb, you and I are. Ben might not be. That when Columbine happened, which I think was if not the -- it certainly was the first big school shooting that I think had national attention.

Ben Yelin: Right. It captured the zeitgeist in a way that nothing had before.

Dave Bittner: Right. So when that happened, we were still at the leading edge of cell phones and the idea of kids having cell phones. And at that time, the school policy that seemed to be being put in place was kids can't have cell phones at school. It was just simply they are not permitted because they are disruptive. And Columbine changed that forever.

Ben Yelin: Right?

Dave Bittner: Because the parents said you are not taking away my ability to communicate with my child in an emergency. And it's been that way ever since. Now again, kid in high school, some teachers let the kids keep their phones. Some kids have a big, you know, hanging bag that has a bunch of slots in it at the front of the classroom and the kids come in and they all put their devices in a numbered slot at the beginning of class and they pick them up at the end. Which to me seems like a good compromise because if something goes bad --

Caleb Barlow: They still have access to the phone.

Dave Bittner: Right. Exactly. But you're not going to be tempted with it during school. But yeah, this notion of having a robust signal in the school itself is an interesting one. But again, I keep coming back to this idea of a proportionate response. I mean, Caleb, do you believe that again, when the state got involved and you have just an overwhelming force descending on the school, do you think that was the right move?

Caleb Barlow: I think, let's put it -- let's play this out in two ways. If it was an active shooter, no one would question that, right? I mean all law enforcement active shooter training is engage the adversary as quickly as possible to stop the harm. Right?

Dave Bittner: With overwhelming force.

Caleb Barlow: With overwhelming force. So that's what you do. I think, though, the thing we've got to learn at -- and of course, once those 9-1-1 calls are made, you have to go through and search the whole school. You have to go through the drill. But what, you know, I think you need to do is there needs to be some way to change the temperature on this, right? So for example, you know, one of the areas of risk that has been looked at over the last 10 years with enhanced 9-1-1 is how ambulances respond to patients. So in a community that has enhanced 9-1-1, what that means is the dispatcher is actually medically trained. And they're talking to the victim. So let's say, you know, Johnny has fallen down and twisted his ankle, that ambulance is not going to go lights and sirens, it's going to drive at normal highway speeds because there is no immediate harm that's going to be done if the ambulance shows up 20 minutes later, which is totally different obviously than someone who's dropped and is having a cardiac episode. Right? So, communities that have leveraged enhanced 9-1-1, what's happening there is that they're dramatically reducing the risk of high speed ambulances driving through communities to things that are otherwise benign incidents. You know, so in other words, there's a temperature. And it may be here in cop shows, you know, code 1, code 2, code 3. These codes tell the individuals what the response is. What is required for that particular incident. And of course, with CAD, if things change with a patient, they can speed up the response. Maybe we need the same type of temperature on a response to some of these types of incidents. Where you know, okay, it's a shooting at a school, it's all out, but once we kind of know that maybe this is starting to look a little bit more like a nothing burger, we peel that back a degree. Maybe, you know, maybe we've got a volume on this, right? Versus okay, it is a potential active shooter at a, you know, at a warehouse that's empty at 3 o'clock in the morning. You know, maybe that's a slightly different response. And I think, look, I think the other thing is the minute you say active shooter in school over police radio, it doesn't matter who that law enforcement officer is, they're going to that school as fast as they can, and that's what we want. But how do we turn the volume back down once we know that maybe it's not as elevated as we think it is?

Dave Bittner: Do you have any sense for, like to what degree did law enforcement have access to the school's surveillance cameras? Was there any real-time access?

Caleb Barlow: I have no idea but I highly doubt it.

Dave Bittner: Yeah. I do, too. But I think that's an interesting thing to consider. And you know, in today's day and age, what difference or how advantageous would it be for law enforcement to be able to bring up the cameras remotely, you know? That police officer who's going to be first on the scene in their vehicle to be able to bring up the lobby camera, you know? Like it's not a crazy idea that that technology would be possible. Of course, you know, obviously schools don't have all the money in the world. But.

Caleb Barlow: Yeah, but this is a really interesting question you're posing, Dave. Like okay, on one hand, in an emergency response, I could see where that would be incredibly valuable. Right? And you know, in the case of like this school, again, well funded private school. They've got cameras everywhere. I'm sure there's some central feed for all of this. Okay. Well this is a law, policy, and privacy podcast. What happens if the cops on an idle Tuesday are sitting in the office and they see, you know, Johnny smoking weed in the hallway. Do they respond to that?

Dave Bittner: Right. Yeah. You know, another thing that comes to mind, a question for you, is to what degree did the school have its own security team?

Ben Yelin: Right, because all private schools, at least in Maryland I know have SROs and I'm sure that's --

Dave Bittner: Right. My kid's high school has a police officer on site all the time.

Caleb Barlow: My understanding, so first of all, it's a private school so they have their own private security and capabilities. I do not know what those are. And even if I did I wouldn't talk about it, right? Because I'm sure that's something they want to keep private. They also have, I know they have very good relationship with local law enforcement. But let me give you -- but here's the interesting thing. Like let me contrast this with the school that my daughter went to. So this is my son's school. My daughter's school is also a large private school with a large campus. They have kind of one private security officer that's, you know, kind of drives around and makes sure kids aren't doing things they shouldn't be doing at 3 o'clock in the morning. But you know, there's no armed presence. And more importantly, there's no locks on the doors during the day. Like you know, my son's school where this incident occurred, there's locks in every door. Every kid has to have a badge on them at all times. It's a pretty, you know, you walk around, you're like this is a very secure place.

Dave Bittner: Right, I can't just walk into my son's high school off the street. You have to buzz in and state your business. And then they let you in.

Caleb Barlow: Versus my daughter's school is basically an open campus. You could be anybody walking around that place. You know, I think that that is also an interesting question, this what is the standard? How does that standard get enforced and is there eventually a liability if you're not following a certain standard?

Dave Bittner: Well, I mean, look. Let's go to the view from space, right? And say that I think one of the things that's hard for me personally to accept is that this is where we find ourselves at all.

Caleb Barlow: Right? 100%. Yeah.

Dave Bittner: Having grown up in a world --

Ben Yelin: I think we can all just stop and acknowledge that, yeah.

Dave Bittner: Well, yeah. I never, I know my experience, my middle class upbringing in the suburbs going to public schools, I never thought of school as being anything but a safe space. And so this idea that -- of lockdown drills and that that is the thing we have come to accept. Rather than coming at the other problems, which we don't have time to get into in this podcast today, but I think we all know what they are. In terms of the availability and use of weapons and so on and so forth. Which is this uniquely American problem. That instead of coming at that, because of the political realities that we face, we are unable to come at that. And just to add an editorial, a little bit here, you know, to me our nation lost its soul a bit after Sandy Hook. The idea that someone could come in and gun down our toddlers and we really haven't done much about that since then.

Ben Yelin: I'll just let Dave take all the anger emails on this one, by the way.

Dave Bittner: Yeah. I know. And I'm putting it out there. You know, and I said that's my opinion. But it frustrates me and it boggles my mind that we can't do a better job with this. We cannot protect our children in schools. And that instead they're faced with the trauma that you describe, both for the kids, and Caleb, you as a parent and your wife, to get the message that there's an active shooter at the school. I don't know what that's like as a parent, but I cannot imagine things that could be much worse. And yet here we are. And we're preparing for that. Rather than what every other civilized nation in the world seems to be able to do and not have this be a thing. So I'll get off my soapbox.

Ben Yelin: But we are here, right?

Dave Bittner: Well that's the thing. It's the reality of where we are. So we have to deal with what we've got. And yeah, you're absolutely right. We have to be realistic and this is -- and let me say, I mean, I think everybody is in good faith trying to deal with this. The law enforcement people, the teachers, nobody's put in a good situation. The parents. But it just makes me sad.

Ben Yelin: Yeah, I mean, that is the very important, 30,000 foot view that I think we can't ignore. But as you say, Caleb, like we are in this world and so, given the fact that the three of us can't change gun policy in this country. I do think having a worthwhile discussion about what to do in these scenarios and how do we react and how do we mitigate harm I think is just a very important conversation to have.

Dave Bittner: So let me wrap up with this, Caleb. Has anything changed in your community? Having been in this experience, has the school, has law enforcement, have the parents, what happened after the fact in terms of the conversations about this and people re-evaluating best practices? Or saying everything went well and we should continue to operate the way that we have.

Caleb Barlow: Well I think, first of all, I think the school did an exceptional job in kind of handling this and you know, it's never a good situation. But what is so powerful, I think, out of this situation is that it's a very good demonstration in my mind that the investment made in preparedness, the investment made in training, the investment made in making drills, all came through and worked when something still went horribly wrong. I would, I mean, this is a horrible thing to think about. But I would purport that had that investment not been made, had administrators not imagine what their worst day looked like, had there not been a relationship with the local police department, this could have ended way, way worse. So, you know, my hope in kind of bringing this story here and talking about it is it gives us the opportunity to do two things. One, recognize as we've talked about with cyber, as we've talked about with other things, preparation matters. And hot washing these incidents when they do occur to look at every little element they can get fine-tuned matters. Right? I think the second thing to recognize with this is that the victims are far bigger and far broader than just the people in that school. And maybe it's time to start thinking about all of that community in our response plan and in particular, this idea of maybe there's some sort of de-escalation protocol. And that even comes in when we have cyber incidents. Like how do you shut it down? How do you turn down the team when you realize you've got nothing? That isn't in most plans today, and I think it needs to be.

Dave Bittner: Alright. Well I think we are going to wrap it up there. Again, Caleb, thank you so much for taking the time for us today. This is a really interesting conversation. Again, Caleb Barlow is the CEO at Cyberbit. And a regular welcome guest here on our show. [ Music ] That is our show. We want to thank all of you for listening. A quick reminder that N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at Our senior producer is Jennifer Eiben. This show is edited by Tre Hester. Our executive editor is Peter Kilpe. I'm Dave Bittner.

Ben Yelin: And I'm Ben Yelin.

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening. [ Music ]