The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 3, 2014

Spider email prank targets Bucknell leaders

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Bucknell University would cancel classes for fear of a looming psychedelic tarantula attack, and House Party Weekend would make a comeback, according to fake emails sent to various campus groups Tuesday from university leaders, including President John Bravman.

The emails were an April Fools’ Day prank.

The joke was nipped in the bud, university spokesman Andy Hirsch said, once officials became aware of the emails, the first of which appeared around 3:45 p.m.

The Bucknell system was not hacked, and no security was compromised, Hirsch said, though officials were investigating who may be behind the prank.

“While it was obvious from the content of these messages that this was a hoax, we are taking the issue very seriously,” Hirsch said. “Our Library and Information Technology staff worked quickly to put measures into place to try to prevent this from happening in the future.”

The emails were sent to students, faculty and staff and made to look like they came from Bravman and other campus leaders. It warned of a “rogue cell of psychedelic tarantulas ... migrating towards Lewisburg. In response, I am issuing a campus shutdown effective tomorrow, whenever classes start.”

Hoax started at spoof site

School officials believe the email came from an Internet site where one can generate spoof emails and make them look official, Hirsch said, adding he couldn’t comment whether there would be disciplinary action against whomever was responsible.

Bravman issued a campuswide response just 45 minutes after the email came to light, telling everyone he did not write the message though it appeared to come from his email account.

“I trust that anyone who received the email quickly determined it was an April Fools’ Day prank,” Bravman stated. “We believe we have identified the website from which this email originated and promise that we will put into place additional measures to ensure something like this cannot happen again. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

House Party still off

Another email alleged that House Party Weekend was returning to Bucknell’s Greek system. The annual tradition was canceled in August, Bravman announced, among several steps to address alcohol abuse and student safety on the campus.

The move followed a unanimous vote by the school’s board to support Bravman’s decision to end the event that saw 15 students hospitalized for alcohol overdose treatment, among other incidents that occurred in 48 hours during the last House Party Weekend.