Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tracking down the Harvard Non-Bomber

This year, (allegedly) a Harvard student performed the modern equivalent of pulling a fire alarm in order to avoid a final exam, in this case by sending an e-mail claiming that there were bombs in several building throughout the campus.  (One of many Crimson stories here.) 

I am proud to say that this student, who was apparently a psychology and sociology major or a prospective psychology major (according to Crimson reports), was (allegedly) using TOR and Guerrilla Mail to try to cover his tracks.  (See, for example, this article.)  I think it shows how Harvard has made it as a computer science/engineering school, now that even our psych majors know how to set up and use tools like this.  Years ago, before CS started taking off at Harvard, you would be hard pressed to come up with a student from a liberal arts major who could use tools like this.  It just goes to show how the place has changed for the better.  I like to think that, if he was a computer science major, and would have correspondingly more understanding of what tracks he was leaving (hint:  don't use your own computer through Harvard's wi-fi when sending a bomb threat...), he might have gotten away with it, or at least been a lot harder to track down. 

[Just to be clear, this is very tongue-in-cheek;  I in no way support or even really want to make light of what this student did, it's utterly reprehensible.  And as several colleagues of mine and I have noted, he knew just enough to be dangerous-- mostly, in the end, to himself.

Also, I was (again, along with several of my colleagues) 95+% certain right off the bat it was a student trying to escape finals.  Besides the timing, the 4 buildings named as where bombs might be hidden included 3 big lecture buildings where exams were taking place... and a freshman dormitory.  (In fact, MY freshman dormitory.)  It seemed unlikely that the dorm would be on any real bomber's radar, and seemed to me to be a clear signal that one or more students were behind it all.]   

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