Prank housing email prompts OIT response
The Office of Information Technology has launched an investigation into the origins of what Housing and Real Estate Services has referred to as a “fraudulent email” that was sent to the student body on the morning of April 1 posing as an official communication from Housing and Real Estate Services.
The email falsely stated that all residential college and upperclassman housing room draw assignments would be reassigned because several room draw groups had received incorrect point values. The sender has not been identified yet.
Housing and Real Estate Services and OIT confirmed that the email was fraudulent in announcements on the Housing and Real Estate Services and OIT websites and in an email sent by Lisa DePaul, Associate Director of Student Housing, to the student body at 11:15 a.m.
OIT has not set a deadline for the investigation and has not yet reported any findings, including the identity of the email’s sender, according to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.
“This is an ongoing process, and therefore, there are no updates to report at this time,” Mbugua said. However, he said that the email was sent from a server outside the University.
The email was sent from firstname.lastname@example.org via the online mail server SendGrid instead of Housing and Real Estate Services’ real email account, email@example.com. SendGrid is a server that can be used to deliver mass emails on behalf of a company. Because of SendGrid’s cap on the number of emails a user can send in one day, the fraudulent emails were sent in multiple batches from the early morning to the early afternoon.
Mbugua said that no actions or disciplinary consequences will be considered until after the investigation has concluded. He said that disciplinary consequences were “not unlikely” but that he could not speculate about such consequences or the outcome of OIT’s investigation at this time.
Will Harrel ’13 responded to the incident with his own April Fool’s joke, posting a Facebook status at 5:14 p.m. claiming that he had sent the email and apologizing for causing any inconvenience.
“My announcement is totally fake. It’s just an April Fool’s prank,” Harrel explained. “I read the email and thought it was interesting because I’m a senior, so I didn’t think I should be getting an email, but I realized it was probably fake. After nobody had been caught doing it, I thought it would be a fun April Fool’s joke to take credit for it.”
When asked about possible suspects, Harrel said, “I have absolutely no idea who did it. I doubt it’s a freshman, and it’s probably someone who knows their way around computer systems and email.”
Several students in Frist Campus Center on Monday evening said they had initially believed the prank email.
“My reaction was that it was probably true at first because no one thinks that Housing is going to pull a joke on students,” Nikitas Tampakis ’14 said. “I know that some people who were affected were pretty angry.”
David Dworsky ’15 also said that both he and a student he is drawing with initially believed the prank email.
“Especially because they messed up last year, I thought they would have fixed up their act this year,” Dworsky said.
Dworsky is a former sports writer for The Daily Princetonian.
Last year, the housing website crashed on one of the days that rising sophomores had been assigned to draw into the residential colleges. Affected students had to select their rooms for the coming year in person in New South.
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