Internet relay used to report MIT hoax - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

MIT official writes letter about gunman hoax

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – MIT officials are speaking out about the false report of a gunman made against the school on Saturday.

In a letter posted on an MIT tech blog, MIT Executive VP and Treasurer Israel Ruiz discussed the incident and criticized the school's failure to sent out a campus alert in a timely manner.

"While the officers focused on securing the area and ensuring the safety of the targeted individuals, we should have alerted the community about the threat much more quickly and that the communication protocols we had in place did not meet the community's reasonable expectations," says Ruiz.

Ruiz also says the school has updated their procedures to make sure an alert is sent within minutes.

Police responded to 77 Massachusetts Ave., an MIT building, after receiving a report that an armed man was inside the building on Saturday morning. The report was received at about 7:30 a.m., however an alert was not sent out until about one hour later by the school.

Students were warned of the threat and asked to avoid main campus; however, after hours of searching, officers were unable to find the suspect in question and declared the scene clear.

Police said the report was received via Internet relay, which is typically used to allow a person who may have hearing or speech impairments to communicate with any phone user in the United States.

The relay service used in this instance was a Sprint relay service, and a Sprint employee notified the police department of the conversation with the reporting party.

During this conversation, a possible suspect was mentioned and police immediately identified and interviewed him.

After questioning, police determined that this individual had no knowledge of the incident. At this time, police do not believe this individual was involved in making the false report.

Police scanner recordings posted by Radioreference.com are giving some insight into the report made via Internet relay. During the search of the building, one officer describes the reported suspect as a "white male, tall, wearing a mask on his face."

An officer was also heard saying the incident was "supposed to be retaliation for the apparent death of Aaron Swartz."

Swartz, an Internet freedom activist, committed suicide in January. He was indicted in 2011 after being accused of illegally hacking millions of academic articles through the academic database JSTOR. Investigators allege Swartz accessed the articles by connecting a computer to MIT's network without authorization. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

In the recordings, one officer says the IP address linked to the relay service was believed to be out of New York. However, officials would not confirm whether or not the report originated from New York during a press conference held hours after the hoax.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Cambridge Police are coordinating with their counterparts at the MIT Police Department, FBI, and Secret Service. The department has also been in contact with the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office and will file charges if the suspect can be located.

Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators by calling 617-349-3300. Those who wish to share information anonymously can learn how to do so via phone, email, or text message by visiting the department's website at www.CambridgePolice.org/Tips.

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