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February 9, 2017 5:00 pm

FBI Investigating Emails Threatening Violence Against Jewish, Black U Michigan Undergrads Sent From Forged Account

avatar by Rachel Frommer

University of Michigan, College of Engineering. Photo: University of Michigan Engineering.

University of Michigan, College of Engineering. Photo: University of Michigan Engineering.

The FBI has launched an investigation into emails sent to Michigan undergraduates, written by someone posing as their instructor, threatening violence against Jews and blacks, The Algemeiner has learned.

The joint criminal inquiry by the FBI and the University of Michigan Police Department began after engineering students received at least three menacing messages Tuesday night ostensibly from Professor J. Alex Halderman and one of his doctoral students, according to student newspaper The Michigan Daily.

University president Mark Schlissel and his administration condemned the emails’ contents in statement on Wednesday. According to the statement, patrol units have increased their presence in the area of the campus where the UM College of Engineering is located.

The school said it has confirmed the messages were “spoofed,” or that the email header was forged to appear as if originated from a source other than the real one — a practice different from hacking, whereby a security system is circumvented in order to access accounts.

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Halderman, a cyber security expert, said in a statement that he and his PhD student “did not send” the messages and “don’t know who did.”

“As I teach in my computer security classes, it takes very little technical sophistication to forge the sender’s address in an email,” he said.

Tilly Shames, the executive director of UM Hillel, told The Algemeiner, “It was very upsetting for students to open their email and receive these hateful messages. Students have shared with me that it was the first time they have ever experienced something so antisemitic. It was shocking and disturbing.”

Shames said Hillel released a statement asserting that “there is no room for hate on this campus.”

“It is important that we all act against this by coming together as a campus community, supporting one another, participating in interfaith and intercultural events, and the like,” she added. “If we fill our campus with support and solidarity and a strong sense of Michigan community, then there will be no space for this kind of hate.”

The University of Michigan, where Jewish students have reported feeling isolated and abandoned by their administration, ranked 22nd on The Algemeiner‘s 2016 list of the “Worst Colleges for Jewish Students” in North America.

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