Forged emails spread hateful messages to Engineering community


Forged emails carrying messages of hate were sent Tuesday night to several College of Engineering email groups from an anonymous email server.

President Mark Schlissel and CoE Dean Alec Gallimore quickly condemned the messages, which were “spoofed” to appear to come from an engineering faculty member and a doctoral student. They did not send the messages.

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The University of Michigan Police Department and the FBI are conducting a joint criminal investigation into the incident. The university’s Information Assurance group also is involved in the investigation.

The university was alerted about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday regarding several racist and anti-Semitic emails. DPSS opened a criminal investigation in this matter and has increased patrols in the North Campus area where CoE is located.

At this point, it has been determined that the emails were forged or “spoofed.”  Email “spoofing” is the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. 

This is different from hacking, which involves a cyber attacker taking over an individual’s account by circumventing security systems. In this case, no one has circumvented any IT security protocols at U-M.

One of the emails was made to appear as if it had been sent by J. Alex Halderman, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and an election cyber-security expert.

“This evening many EECS undergrads received emails with racist and anti-Semitic content that appeared to be addressed from me or from my Ph.D. student, Matt Bernhard,” Halderman said.

“These messages were spoofed. Matt and I did not send them, and we 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. The content of these emails is contemptible and I’m sorry that the EECS student body was subjected to them.”



  1. Patti Fitzpatrick
    on February 9, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I think the President, with his unfiltered, vicious attacks on anyone who criticizes or disagrees with him, and his disturbingly white supremacist staff have created a hateful environment which has emboldened some people to act on their racist beliefs. It’s heartbreaking to me that this is happening.

    • Tomas Medina
      on February 9, 2017 at 9:16 am

      I personally know professor Halderman and he is an exceptional instructor and a very integral individual. Both him and his PhD student have been receiving cyber threats from people that disagree politically with what they are doing intellectually.
      They are doing Cyber security research for the sake of science and progress, and they should not be targeted because of that.

    • patricia deldin
      on February 9, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I think that is the most outrageous thing I’ve heard said about our outstanding president. He has been outstanding at promoting diverse opinions.

      • Adam Wilkinson
        on February 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        I assume that Patricia is referring to U-M President Schlissel, while the prior poster was clearly referring to U. S. President Trump. In which case I wholeheartedly agree with her.

      • Patti Fitzpatrick
        on February 10, 2017 at 7:37 am

        Yes, of course I was referring to Trump. I think our University president is wonderful.

      • Paula Pernia
        on February 10, 2017 at 9:56 am

        I think Patti was referring to President Trump, not our University President, Mark Schlissel. That being said, I agree with Patti’s sentiment in that Trump’s message to our country is one of hate and intolerance, and not of acceptance and inclusion. Contrary to the hate messages that our US President and these spoofer’s are trying to spread, this country’s foundation was built on open doors and acceptance, and the University community has always been inclusion and acceptance, that encourages diversity, allow us to learn from each other to building a better society.

  2. Larry Davis
    on February 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    As a graduate (1970 BS Pharmacy), I have tried to keep informed about controversial issues on campus, albeit at quite a distance (Oregon, and now Tennessee). I have been fortunate to attend Medical School and to have practiced in a small town in Oregon and also on the faculty of a Family Medicine residency program in Knoxville, TN. Thanks to everyone at Michigan who nurtured a farm boy from Plainwell, Michigan from 1965-1970!

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