An Apology to President Reif and the MIT Community
Earlier today I sent out an email to most of MIT which alluded to a very controversial situation and spoofed as if it was sent from the president of MIT. This email produced fear and caused many people to be angry that someone would take such a serious matter so lightly. I’d like to apologize for the damage I caused to the MIT community, especially in light of the recent events that have caused large amounts of strife, which I only added to.
I made a lot of people mad, and made many people very scared, and for that I feel terrible. MIT has already gone through a lot in the last few months, and my actions were completely inappropriate. I should have never written the email, and especially not sent it out to the entire school.
Below, I’ve documented what happened and an explanation of the severity of my actions:
Earlier today, I made the mistake of sending out the following email to MIT: (Pulled from this article)
This prank all started as a simple argument between friends at 12:45 AM. I was trying to explain how email is a completely insecure protocol, and that it was very easy to spoof an email to be sent from anyone. My friend didn’t believe me and challenged me to send him an email as if it was President Reif.
I decided to show my friend up and make it seem even more legitimate. I quickly pulled up a couple of President Reif’s emails and stole his letterhead and a couple of sentences.
I initially wanted to pull a prank on my living group and convince them there were no classes tomorrow, so I racked my mind for an excuse and decided to put something in about “threats from the media” causing classes to be canceled.
I knew I had to be tricky, because of President Reif’s emails are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, but I knew my message would obviously not be approved. To make it seem legit, I would send the email to that address, but BCC whatever email address I would want to see it.
I initially sent it out to just my friend, and then a minute later, I decided to send it out to the whole living group, and then all of the dorms. At that time, the only thoughts that were going through my head were “This’ll be really funny when people think there aren’t any classes tomorrow”
At the time, I wasn’t thinking about the gun scare. I wasn’t even thinking about the Aaron Swartz case I had copied into the email. All I was thinking in composing that email was to make it seem like an email President Reif would actually compose.
I walked away from my computer to go eat some food, and I was still worry-free until I saw the email on a friend’s computer. Reading through it, with the official letterhead, I realized how this appeared in context with the Aaron case and the recent gun scare.
Today, President Reif decided to inform the MIT community that we were not ready to release the report on the Aaron Swartz papers due to the concerns of the safety of members of the MIT community whose names were mentioned. Now I had just spoofed an email from the president and sent out to most of campus that classes were canceled due to some sort of “threat”.
At this point the reality of actions hit me like a cold wave. I wasn’t sure initially how to respond. First, I needed to make sure no one thought this email was real, so I sent an apology email to the entire school.
Next thing I knew, hundreds of emails were being sent that were spoofing President Reif, and the MIT Tech was calling. I dismissively told the reporter that “I was just a kid”. I just wanted to make it clear that the email had no malicious intentions, but that I was being extremely childish.
I realized I had left the script running, and that each time someone visited my server, it sent out another spoof email. By the time I managed to shut down the server and SIPB had reached out to me, over 120 spoofed emails had been sent.
What started out as a way to prove a point, turned into a very very stupid email which was sent out to campus. And then it was sent out another 120 times.
I didn’t really think through the context of the email, or the effects it could have. I didn’t think about how this email appeared 12 hours after a very serious email was sent out to all of MIT.
I’d like to apologize to President Reif and the entire MIT community. I deeply regret my actions earlier tonight.
EDIT: Added a sentence at the top to make it clear this email should not have been written.