On Friday, an email sent out to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club listserv encouraged the New York TigerTrek team to artificially lower acceptance rates. The email appeared to have been sent from the address of Theodor Marcu ’20, the director of New York TigerTrek, a trip that allows 20 selected University undergraduates to meet entrepreneurial leaders at start-ups, venture capital firms, and other companies in New York City.
The Office of Information Technology opened an investigation and found that the email was forged in order to mislead the recipients about the origin of the message. Such an email is commonly referred to as a spoof. Email spoofing is used in phishing and scam campaigns. It is possible because core email protocols do not provide a mechanism for address authentication.
“It was disheartening because we put in a lot of effort in this trip,” explained Marcu, emphasizing that the selection process is fair to all applicants. New York TigerTrek's selection committee is made up of both students and faculty members.
“We genuinely try to get as many people who otherwise wouldn’t have applied to these things to apply and to get them on the trip,” he said, noting that the trip is not just for STEM majors, but for “anybody who is interested in meeting fantastic people who are building the world that we live in.”
Applications were due Jan. 14, for the 2018 spring break trip to New York.
Marcu encourages all interested students to apply, citing the uniqueness of the opportunity to meet top professionals, find mentors and job opportunities down the road, and bond with students on the trip.
“We want to reach out to as many people as possible who are from different backgrounds,” he said.
Rachel Yee ’19 participated in the program last year, calling it "the definitive turning point" of her year.
Before the trip, she was uninspired and unmotivated professionally. Once on the trip, she was exposed to new concepts, learned about innovative approaches, and gained new perspectives.
"I am very thankful that it introduced me to a very different group of people at Princeton," she said. "Tiger Trek was a great way to get to know people with vastly different interests in a meaningful way. It shook things up in a good way for me."
The forged email was sent to 200 subscribers of an E-Club listserv for officers and directors. The message encouraged recipients to spam promotional emails in order to increase the number of applicants and reduce the acceptance rate so “all of this looks more legit.”
“Don’t worry we will make sure that you guys are selected anyways,” the message ended, apparently targeted at members of the TigerTrek team. Kevin Wu ’19 replied all to express his concern about the last line. In response, Marcu asserted that the email did not come from him and that it was in no way affiliated with TigerTrek.
On top of deterring students from applying, Marcu worries that the act of identity impersonation casts a shadow on his personal reputation. He does not know who was behind the email spoofing, a tactic used in phishing and scams.
Marcu participated in New York TigerTrek last year, when the trip was but a pilot. Modeled on Silicon Valley TigerTrek, the fall break trip in its seventh year, the New York version was a resounding success. This year, participants will meet with Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway; Alan Patricof, Co-Founder of Greycroft Capital; and Justin Connolly of EVP, Disney, and ESPN, among others.
The trip is sponsored by the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Keller Center, the Bendheim Center for Finance, and Career Services.