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Racist emails sent to students 'almost certainly involves a hacker,'
Source: Martin Slagter




A University of Michigan professor denies he sent racist and anti-Semitic emails that initially appeared to have come from his account.

J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering, said in an email to The Ann Arbor News that the messages sent to students the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 7,    were "spoofed."

Halderman's uniqname, as well as UM Ph.D. student Matt Bernhard's, who conducts research with Halderman, were used in at least three emails sent out to students, he acknowledged.

"This evening many EECS undergrads received emails with racist and antisemitic content that appeared to be addressed from me or from my Ph.D. student Matt Bernhard," Halderman said in an email to The Ann Arbor News early Wednesday morning. "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 emails, which were sent to computer science and engineering undergraduate students, included subjects "African American Student Diversity" and "Jewish Student Diversity," according to a student who received the messages Tuesday.

The UM Division of Public Safety & Security and the ITS security team are investigating the incident, said UM Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald in an email to The Ann Arbor News early Wednesday.

"This almost certainly involves a hacker, but the emails remain under investigation," Fitzgerald said in an email.

According to The Michigan Daily, the first two emails read: "Hi n*****s, I just wanted to say that I plan to kill all of you. White power! The KKK has returned!!! Heil Trump!!!!"

The third reads: "Hi you f*****g filthy jews, I just wanted to say the SS will rise again and kill all of your filthy souls. Die in a pit of eternal fire! Sincerely, Dr. Alex Halderman," according to the Daily.

Halderman, who was among a group of computer scientists and election lawyers urging Hillary Clinton to call for a recount in three swing states won by President Donald Trump, said he believes he and Bernhard were targeted because of their work in efforts to recount the presidential election.

"I suspect that this is a cowardly action by someone who is unhappy about the research that Matt and I do in support of electoral integrity," Halderman said. "We study cybersecurity and elections, and in recent months we were involved in efforts to recount the presidential election to confirm that the outcome hadn't been changed by a cyberattack."

Nathan Moos, a junior computer science major at UM who received the emails, vouched for both Halderman and Bernhard, indicating that he took Halderman's computer security class last semester.

"Neither professor Halderman or (Bernhard) are responsible in any way," Moos told The Ann Arbor News early Wednesday. "I know this is not (Halderman's) worldview."

Moos said he believes the emails were sent by attackers using an "email faking" service, pointing to the "emkei.cz"message ID tag, rather than the umich.edu tag that would indicate it was sent by someone with a UM email address.

Halderman said he expects the university to resolve the matter soon and was disappointed students saw the racist and anti-Semitic content.

"In any case, the content of these emails is contemptible, and I'm sorry that the EECS student body was subjected to them," he said.

After learning about the emails, some students protested early Wednesday outside of the home of UM President Mark Schlissel, who addressed their concerns, according to social media posts from students.
Schlissel condemned the emails in a Tweet early Wednesday.



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