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Screenshot of fake email from Delian T. Asparouhov ’15, impersonating President L. Rafael Reif.
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A fake email that appeared to be sent by President L. Rafael Reif addressing all of MIT was sent to all MIT dorms at 1 a.m. this morning, announcing that all classes would be cancelled for Wednesday, March 20, due to “threatening requests” regarding the Swartz case. The email followed a letter from Reif yesterday morning 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.”

Comments
1
What an idiot. He better hope his startup pans out, because I can't see administration taking this very lightly.
2
Sorry again everyone. I did not realize that this would get so out of hand, and I really wasn't thinking through when I composed the email.

Deeply apologetic,

-Delian
3
Delian, are you no longer an MIT student? Your TEDx page says you dropped out of MIT.

If so you should contact a lawyer immediately as I imagine this will be pursued criminally.
4
Students here are known for their hacks but there is always a line that should not be crossed. The hoax was disruptive for many students studying in the middle of hell week, callous given the sensitivity around the Swartz case and the recent armed gunman threat, and showed a complete lack of respect for President Reif and the MIT administration.

"Sorry, just a kid messing around"?? What kind of dismissive response is that? It shows some serious arrogance and inability to understand the ramification of his actions on the greater community.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a fun environment here at MIT, but this hoax and Delian's subsequent response is upsetting in so many ways. I hope the administration responds swiftly and appropriately, but I also hope that this idiot does not trigger an administration backlash against the hacker culture.

-an annoyed student
5
What #4 said. I also hope this does not trigger some kind of backlash against hacker culture, because clearly this kid is about as far from hacking at MIT as one can get, if his values are any indicator.
6
Just a thought... If Delian could forge L. Rafael Reif, could it be possible that someone else is forging Delian to get him into trouble?
7
6:

No; the email headers in Delian's messages looked intact, whereas the ones in pseudo-Reif's messages looked like they had been sent by Delian.

Also it was clear from the Tech interview that Delian had admitted to being the culprit.
8
This post explains the situation:

http://www.delian.io/post/45826171642

-Delian
9
Wow. Just read the blog post. It sounds like he's more focused on self-aggrandizement than actually apologizing for his actions (not to mention, his writing is horrible):

"I knew I had to be tricky, because of President Reifs emails are sent to allmitmit.edu, 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."

What a genius! Definitely putting those course 6 skills to work!
10
Agree with 9: reads like an early, smugger draft of the first 15 mins of Social Network minus the impressiveness. I wouldn't wait on any calls from Sorkin...
11
The misspelling of "tumultuous" and "received" in the original hoax email... the poor quality of his writing in his blog apology that literally sounds like a poorly written imitation of the Social Network script ("I knew I had to be tricky...")... agree with 9 and 10.

Perhaps the best remedy for him to truly improve his writing and express sincerity is to attend a disciplinary hearing... his lawyers will probably proofread any statements he issues
12
Man, everyone's jimmies seriously got rustled. Relax, folks.
13
Geez, relax people. He did a bad thing and is trying to own up to it. I agree with everyone including him that it was stupid and uncalled for, but he's trying to apologize and now everyone wants to stone him out of MIT. Just accept his apology, know that he's sorry, and move on.
14
To Delian,
If you really wanted to create a proper Anonymous message you should have done the following:
1) Don't use scripts to send fake emails, why didn't you just use a simple python script? I have no clue how you used scripts, but clearly there were vulnerabilities in that approach.
2) What was going through your head when you named the script index.php? Bro, do you even code? You seem to be a smart kid, but seriously, that has got to be the most supremely stupid act that you committed last night.
3) Tested it out on your fraternity brothers and given them some time to let them read it. Surely at least one of them, not involved, would have been able to catch the stupid header clearly and prominently stating the actual sender, you.

Finally, you would have realized that there is absolutely no way to get away with an email spoofing at MIT unless someone, who is in the MIT community, signs the email. So, unless you throw someone else under the bus, there is no way to get away with this cleanly.

Realize that there are people here at MIT who know much much more than you about the email protocol, and could have spoofed a message much much better. The tone of your response on your website is ignorant. Ignorant insofar that it seems as if you thought, for the briefest moment, you could fool all of the MIT community.

Even if you were drunk, there is clearly no excuse for your actions.

I know you quite well, and you have a good head on your shoulders, so I trust that you'll come out of this okay. On your TedXYouth profile, you wrote that you dropped out of MIT. This seems like some queer statement of legitimacy. It proves little to nothing. If you're serious about this queer dream, you should get up and leave Boston altogether. Or I suggest you rethink what you're prioritizing in your life.

This needs to be a wake up call for you, this event wasn't trivial, and you shouldn't get away from this unscarred.
15
12 and 13

Geez relax? Are you two fing serious?
I don't give a care about his half-hearted apology, the point is he's an idiot trying to act cool for his group of boy-men and he should have acted with more judgment given the current atmosphere at MIT. "Just a kid" my ass. Sack up son.
This is the kind of crap that's affecting our men: they are sorry when they get caught, not because they did something completely idiotic. If he had gotten away with this he would probably feel so proud of himself as his "bros" circlejerked him for his "trickiness".
16
tumultuous
17
15

Don't drag us into this, we think he is an idiot too.

- One of the "Boy-Men"
18
I bet CoD is not going to be happy with this one.

This has nothing to do with hacking. A hack is something that the campus can share and enjoy together, not one smug asshole having fun causing distress in everyone else.
19
12 here.

Yeah, I'm serious.

I understand that what the guy did was a bad thing to do, and as far as pranks go quite distasteful, but anyone with half a mind would have quickly picked up on the fact that the e-mail was a hoax (spelling errors, sent to dorm mailing list, original e-mail headers, image hosting site choice etc...). Most people figured out this was fake and there were e-mails being passed around after 10min or so. If there was serious emotional distress resulting from this, perhaps you need a little perspective.

It's cool to be upset, but the quest for blood here is a little out of hand.
20
PS: Couldn't spoofing your friends' emails to each other have been enough? "Death threats to all of campus" is a huge jump.

- 18
21
12/19 I can't speak for everyone, but I'm not upset because of the prank. I'm upset because of one kid (in his own words) fucking up royally. I'm upset because this kid has the balls to say that he dropped out of MIT. I'm upset because this kid isn't owning up by saying "I shouldn't have written the email the first place". I'm upset because not everyone knows exactly what email headers are, how to check them, how to confirm an email is fake, etc. I'm upset because he thinks impersonation is fine, even if it is easy.
22
21: I think that he thinks impersonation is fine because it's easy.

He has apologized for screwing up the script, but not for writing that email in the first place? What are his priorities?
23
Agreed with 15. I don't know what you are thinking 12 and 13, but if you're trying to cover him up for this mess, think twice again.

This is not even considered a joke. His action can be compared to "shouting fire in a crowded theater." His blog entry? That doesn't even sound a bit apologetic. I think the previous commenters did enough justice in saying them so I wouldn't repeat. He says "sorry" but the entire blog doesn't scream out remorse. I wonder how differently he WOULD write if he actually does feel remorseful.

It's a disgrace to have this kind of kid from our institution. It doesn't matter how great your school is or what kind of talents you possess, if you don't grow up. Yeah, to think that admitting "I'm just a kid" when you are already a legal adult and think that's enough to get away, he better face consequences.
24
1. If you were tricked by this email, you're almost as stupid as the guy who wrote it.

2. There are probably better ways to prove a point about email vulnerabilities to your friend than to impersonate the president of MIT and lie to all of campus all while treading on extremely serious current issues.

And 15, you need to pull your head out of your ass. One stupid guy sent out an idiotic email. That's it. This does not mean there's a systemic problem with men at MIT, or fraternities.
25
...SB...
26
"I knew I had to be tricky, because of President Reifs emails are sent to allmitmit.edu, 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."

-.- That's what every club on campus does when sending out events to dorms; people normally just send to themselves rather than "allmit". This "trick" has been known for years, nothing new. Arrogant brag.
27
Seriously? This guy is so arrogant. He needs some humility.
28
Are we sure he's a sophomore? His MIT people directory listing says he's in year 3.

I hope he gets severely disciplined for this, and I would like to hear news of that when it happens.
29
From his blog post and response, I seriously think he did this only to look cool on his YC application. That's REALLY pathetic.
30
"His action can be compared to 'shouting fire in a crowded theater.'"

Jesus Christ, get a grip.
31
YC application? They ask about hacking a non computer system

"Shouting fire in a crowded theater?" Really? Are people about to get trampled to death because of 150 emails in their inbox?

If MIT uses the law to prosecute him, this may be the ultimately irony. Except the defendant is far less sympathetic here
32
Well one good thing came out of this:

Now you know that if someone this stupid can start a company, anyone can.
33
I think this kid knew exactly what he was doing (except for the error in the script).

First, I'm not "upset" about anything, I just felt like taking a minute to call this kid out on his cries for attention.

He's got the attention of a large portion of the MIT community and has even gone so far as to post an apology on his blog...so we'd have to go to his website.

Something doesn't make sense. I don't attend here, I'm not a genius and I can think of about a dozen mistakes I wouldn't make (if I were to ever do something so stupid), he was just a little too sloppy. So much so that he either is cheating his way in to the program here or, as is my opinion, he did it this way deliberately for the attention.

He released the screen shot of the email to The Tech along with an interview, what at 2am? Then had the audacity to write an apology on his website? Come on, my ass would be in communication with the school to resolve it, then think about the apology.

By the way, the email wasn't sent to the entire MIT community. I probably wouldn't have even heard about it if it weren't for all of the PR tactics he employed after his infantile cry for attention, which even I am giving him with this comment. Well played (I can't even be bothered to scroll up to get his name and I don't remember).
34
There are purer motives for hacking, and motives less pure. Those motives are sometimes revealed in the nature of the hack itself (as in THIS stupid hack). Sometimes, those motives are revealed by method of expression involved in the hack (what part was 'hack', and what part was 'broken trust'), and also by the willingness to defend the hack and see it through to the end. Food for thought.
35
Most of the recipients of the message (which was sent to MIT dorms) examined the headers of the e-mail and quickly apprehended that the e-mail was bogus.

Perhaps a few students at MIT were gullible enough to take the bogus e-mail at face value and believe it to be authentic. And perhaps the foolish sophomore who sent it failed to appreciate the reaction by those who would become fooled.

This example reminds me of the occasions in which the mainstream media picks up a parody from The Onion or The Daily Currant and naively repeats it as a legitimate news story.

The lesson to be learned is that it's not nice to fool gullible people with manifestly bogus information. They won't take kindly to it.
36
Here are some thoughts:

- Don't be too hateful people. Don't be so unforgiving. Did it really hurt your life so much that you have to see him be prosecuted and all that? Does it actually make you happier to see him suffer? If you're annoyed of spam, there are hundreds of legitimate emails every day spamming these dorm lists; why aren't you annoyed of that?
- Reflect on your email reading behavior. A few days ago there was a phishing attempt to MIT, which was much more evil than this hoax. Why couldn't you have treated this the same way as the phishing email? Learn to check the headers.
- MIT should reflect on its email handling behavior. If an email is detected to be spoofed, it should either not send the email or attach a message saying it's spoofed (like Gmail's red banner). I'm especially disappointed at the phishing attempt a few days ago. How can MIT let such an email through?
- One possible reason that Delian used PHP instead of Python was because sending email with PHP is a well known technique and can be much easily carried out than with Python.
- It's completely normal for an adult to behave like a kid, especially when a smaller immature decision gets amplified by a bigger mistake. Everyone has to go through a process of growing up, so give him a chance to do so.
37
That email was very disruptive. My roommate and I dropped everything we were doing because we were seriously concerned. It was hard for us to stay focused even after we discovered it was a hoax. Seriously, it's not okay to mess around with people like this during hell week. Go ahead, try to cover it up for him and telling people to relax, his stupidity had distracted people in a time they really shouldn't be. Oh right, this kid dropped out of MIT so he has no midterms this week, why would he care about the rest of MIT students?
38
I still don't understand why he thought he was relevant to do this. I, for one, don't even know who the hell this is. Seems like he's just trying to give his life some relevance because it has none to most of the people on campus. Stupid cry for attention that wasted the time of many people. He probably should seek some help and find other ways to outlet his feelings.
39
I agree that we need to be more forgiving. From his perspective, an apology was the best he could have done at that point to take responsibility for his actions. He and the rest of the community will take some lessons out of what he did, but a vindictive stance will hardly do us good.
40
Barry Kort: the only problem I have with your summation is the generalization at the end seems a bit harsh.

I agree that people who constantly tilt at every windmill have OTHER issues - but most people tend to have at least one weak moment. Context is everything - and so, yes, in the context of a rough academic week, on a late night, against the backdrop of other emails from Reif during the week, I easily see how otherwise savvy people might get taken in by a relatively poor hoax.

An important part of functioning in society is to get past the urge to "dish out the maximum chaos that everyone should be able to cope with at their strongest", and move on towards learning the benefits of "not going out of your way to hurt others at their weakest". Let us hope this student moves further in that direction.
41
#35: the only problem I have with your summation is the generalization at the end seems a bit harsh.

I agree that people who constantly tilt at every windmill have OTHER issues - but most people tend to have at least one weak moment. Context is everything - and so, yes, in the context of a rough academic week, on a late night, against the backdrop of other recent emails from Reif, I easily see how otherwise savvy people might get taken in by a relatively poor hoax.

An important part of functioning in society is to get past the urge to "dish out the maximum chaos that everyone should be able to cope with at their strongest", and move on towards learning the benefits of "not going out of your way to hurt others who may be at their weakest". Let us hope this student moves further in that direction.
42
People acting defensively / lashing out in response: please consider what you're doing. Even against the backdrop of current events, the email was a relatively harmless prank by most standards. Perhaps MIT can learn from this and send out a pamphlet on detecting fake emails in the future so that everyone will be easily able to recognize them from now on.
43
And he posts on hacker news under the name "mithacker":

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id5090001
44
"Hi, I'm Delian, that's nailed backwards."
45
Apparently it's "MIT_Hacker":
https://news.ycombinator.com/user?idMIT_Hacker
46
45
Ha, looks like he deleted it.
47
46
he didn't delete it. 45's email was missing an equals sign between "id" and "MIT_Hacker" because the Tech site removes it.
48
44 LOL
49
People make mistakes. Everyone, get over it.
50
As an alum, we need to seriously re-think admissions requirements and restore on-site interviews as well as require essays for literacy. Does anyone wonder why these "alums" never return or give back to MIT?
51
50 when did they remove that? I'm class of 2013 and I remember having an interview essay(s) for admission, not even counting that essay to determine whether you had to take CI-HW classes.
52
To everyone saying this is not a big deal - do you think a bomb threat is not a big deal? Perhaps if the person calls back 10 minutes later and says it was a joke?

Further, it's pretty obvious that he wouldn't have sent out an email taking credit / apologizing / clearing up the matter so quickly if he hadn't been so stupid in the execution, thus spamming people 100s of times. He didn't even express remorse about the first email - just about the spam - which is mind-blowing.

I can't see how this is substantively, morally, or legally different from a bomb threat, especially given recent events on campus with the shooter. For those of us who might have been caught up in the shooting incident in some way (and for everyone else, too), this is a genuinely uneasy time.

Yes, it was fairly easy to figure out the email was fake given Delian's horrific spelling and grammar, and the headers. That didn't mean something bad wasn't happening on campus - it was hard to tell at first whether this was part of another more elaborate Anonymous hoax or threat (as they did with the shooter, they could have been trying to pin it on an MIT community member). It didn't become fully clear that this was actually Delian until the Tech talked to him on the phone hours later.

There is a reason bomb threats aren't treated lightly by the legal system, and I hope that MIT does everything in our power to make this kid take full responsibility for his actions, up to and including criminal penalties. What is extra-disgusting about the incident is the fact that he thought he could laugh it off by saying "I'm just a kid having fun." If there is anything wrong with the current generation, its encapsulated in that statement. He is an adult and should understand what that means. If not, I hope we make him understand. Our student life system, and his parents, should not be sending mixed messages on this point - we do enough coddling of this generation (a generation to which I belong) already.
53
To Delian,

Shit happens. People sometimes do dumb things.
It must be really hard for you right now.
Try to remember that though this really sucks right now, and it seems like you can't escape it, it will get better.
Try to use the embarrassment and shame of this incident as a learning experience, and don't let yourself start to hate the people who are criticizing you, or try to run away from the MIT world because of this.
It will make you stronger ultimately, but it will take time.

Best,
Someone who has also screwed up
54
People who think it is simple to quickly verify an email:
Email verification is a much more difficult task on a mobile phone, which is where many users (myself included) first saw the email. This left many minutes of panic before finding a safe place and a computer to verify.
55
It doesn't take any sophistication to trick people via fake emails.

Anyone remember the fake email sent to 3.091 about Final Exam grades back in 2005? That was a TERRIBLE impersonation job (used a gmail account), but it tricked a LOT of people initially.