Email hoax Wednesday causes stir

Claim of ‘threatening requests’ was false

A fake email that appeared to be sent by President L. Rafael Reif addressing all of MIT was sent to all MIT dorms around 1 a.m. early Wednesday morning, announcing that all classes would be cancelled that day, due to “threatening requests” regarding the Swartz case. The email followed a letter from Reif on Tuesday to the MIT community laying out the Institute’s plans for releasing evidence from the Swartz case.

The email was in fact a “joke” email sent by Delian T. Asparouhov ’15, impersonating sender and recipient information in the email header.

Some students believed the email at first, which listed Reif as the sender and “allmit” (a mailing list addressing all of campus) as the recipient. However, the hoax became clear as the same email began to flood inboxes, and subjects lines contained the names of dormitory mailing lists, indicating that it had really been sent to each dorm and not to all of MIT.

In a phone interview with The Tech, Asparouhov said, “Sorry, that email from Rafael Reif was really from me. I was just trying to joke around, and did not mean to bring in such a serious matter like Aaron Swartz. Sorry, just a kid messing around.”

The email was sent over 100 times to some recipients by a script written by Asparouhov. Asparouhov said that he only sent the email once, but he left his script up and visits from others triggered the rest of the emails. “The mistake that I made was that I put it up on my scripts account. What I did stupidly was that I left that script there, and people were going to that page and refreshing that page,” Asparouhov said. “By the time I shut it down over 100 emails had been sent.”

A few hours later, Asparouhov posted an apology on his blog, saying “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.”

He later added, “I should have never written the email, and especially not sent it out to the entire school.”

MIT Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation Kirk Kolenbrander sent an email to the MIT community shortly after 4 a.m. confirming that the email was not sent by President L. Rafael Reif and that classes would proceed as scheduled that day.

There has not been any disciplinary action taken by MIT.

NostalgicHacker2005 over 5 years ago

Why do people jump through so many hoops to send a fake email? People fall for MUCH simpler hoax emails, even at MIT. It's not that hard.

Anyone remember the 3.091 hoax email about Final Exam Grades back in December 2005? That used a GMAIL address and fooled a ton of people early on. I wonder if that person ever confessed to Prof Sadoway. Statute of Limitations??

Anonymous over 5 years ago

andddddd he's a thiel 20 under 20 finalist as of today. congrats delian!

Anonymous over 5 years ago

Thiel is tired of his MIT selections turning him down or withdrawing their applications, this one might have no choice but to accept a Thiel offer. It is WIN WIN for MIT, Thiel and the sophomore.

Anonymous over 5 years ago

"There has not been any disciplinary action taken by MIT."

I really hope the rumors that he is being let off scott-free by the administration (I hear, directly let off by Chancellor Grimson) are false. What he did was upsetting and disruptive and in the middle of midterms, and the last thing we need is to send the message that impersonating the president of MIT on matters of campus safety is no biggie. If he really is let off without any disciplinary action: what a sad, sorry comparison between him and Aaron (who, however flawed, at least had a cause).

Also, the Thiel and Delian: just more proof that the Thiel is a joke.

W. Eric Grimson, Chancellor over 5 years ago

To the members of the MIT Community:

That Asparouhov guy is badass!! So stop saying MIT should take disciplinary action against him!!

If an administrator can write an op-ed using a STUDENT'S name, why can't a student write an e-mail using an ADMINISTRATOR'S name?

See Anon., comment 6 on Austin B-- and Alec L--, "Opinion: RLAD Process Not a Failure," Tech, September 18, 2012. ("Chris C-- wrote this article. Don't be deceived.")


W. Eric Grimson