The University of Michigan says “foreign hackers” infiltrated its email system, sending racist, sexist and anti-Semitic messages to students using professors names and email accounts.
The messages were spoofed, according to the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily, and even the school’s renowned cybersecurity professor, Dr. J. Alex Halderman, was affected, along with his PhD-level assistant.
Subject lines ranged from, “African American Student Diversity” to “Jewish Student Diversity,” and contained messages reading, “Hi n*****s, I just wanted to say that I plan to kill all of you. White power! The KKK has returned!!! Heil Trump!!!!” and “Hi you fucking filthy jews, I just wanted to say the SS will rise again and kill all of your filthy souls. Die in a pit of eternal fire! Sincerely, Dr. Alex Halderman.”
The emails appeared to be sent through the school’s proprietary listserv, which likely means the school’s on-campus private servers were hacked.
Handleman told local media that he thought the messages might have been from someone unhappy with his work; he was among the cybersecurity experts encouraging third party candidate Dr. Jill Stein to challenge voting results in Michigan.
“This appears to be a cowardly action by someone who is unhappy about the research that Matt and I do in support of electoral integrity,” Halderman wrote to students. “We study cybersecurity and elections, and in recent months we were involved in efforts to recount the presidential election to confirm that the outcome hadn’t been changed by a cyberattack.
But simply including “Trump” in an email is not necessarily an indication Trump supporters perpetrated the hack.
The school says its investigating the emails and taking the threats seriously. The school’s public safety department released a statement saying that an investigation was ongoing but that they would not suggest who was behind the messages. Halderman told students he thought the hack could have come from overseas.
The school has been the target of racist and anti-immigrant messages before. Shortly after Donald Trump’s election, white supremacists littered fliers extolling the virtues of “whiteness” across the campus.