Hacker attempts class cancellation via e-mail

Jill Brower

An e-mail falsely informing the student body that the University would be closed was sent out on Tuesday at 12:37 a.m. under the name of University President Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A. The e-mail attributed the closing to a water main break on County Line Road which blocked running water in classroom buildings and created unsanitary conditions.

Although many students prematurely began rejoicing about their day off, word soon spread that the e-mail was a prank and had been created by a hacker. Another prank e-mail was sent at 2:40 a.m. stating that class would be held as normal. Many students realized the e-mails were fake due to a number of errors within the text; one stated the date as “Monday, April 20,” while the other misspelled Dobbin’s first name.

“I was so excited when I read it. I wish it had worked,” sophomore Kelley Menzano said. “But then I noticed the little mistakes, and I called Public Safety and found out it was fake.”

Official University school closings are reported in a red banner on the homepage by Bob Morro, executive director for Facilities Management. “Normally we only close for snow emergencies or power outages,” he said. “We try never to close school unless we can’t make the campus safe.”

At approximately 8 a.m., Morro posted an announcement on the homepage that classes would be held as normal.

Stephen Fugale, chief information officer for UNIT, said that Dobbin’s e-mail account was not broken into, but instead, the hacker “spoofed” his name. “The ability to spoof the e-mail system with someone technologically competent can occur, but it is traceable.”

UNIT is currently investigating the situation. They know that the fake e-mails were sent from an on-campus location.

“This shows a lack of respect to the community,” Fugale said. “A lot of people had to jump through hoops to make sure it was a prank and school was open. Now additional safeguards need to be taken to protect those who do send information through e-mail.”

Dobbin expressed concern over the effects this prank will have on future valid messages. “To me, it’s not a personal issue,” he said. “But now I’m concerned that there will be a lack of confidence in University messages. I see the seriousness of people being able to use e-mail to violate privacy.”

Morro echoed Dobbin. “It’s the crying-wolf syndrome,” he said. “If false e-mails come out frequently, then people won’t respond when they actually are true.”

According to Morro, the situation posed in the e-mail is not feasible for several reasons. It incorrectly stated that Radnor Township was responsible, when in fact Aqua America, formerly Philadelphia Suburban Corporation, supplies water to the University.

Most students did not take the e-mail seriously and attended classes regularly on Tuesday. “When I read it, I was more hoping than believing,” senior Alex Abad-Santos said. “It was too good to be true.”

Junior Alison Hontanosas, however, noticed a slightly lower number of students in attendance in her 10 a.m. class. “There weren’t that many people in my morning class,” she said. “A lot of them just went to sleep when they read the e-mail and didn’t wake up for class.”

She added, “It’s really creepy knowing that someone can hack into the system like they did.”

As of now, the sender of the e-mails has not yet been identified, nor has a punishment been determined. However, campus officials are looking into preventative measures.

“UNIT is looking into ways to make it impossible for this to happen again,” Dobbin said.

“It’s a shame to use our University resources in that way,” Fugale said. “Whatever the fun is of the prank, the implications are worse.”