Cyber security expert: Email bomb hoax could happen again

A bomb threat was sent to a number of organizations across the country Thursday through email. Law enforcement have ruled the threat not credible. (WWMT)

Authorities continue to investigating a series of hoax bomb threats received through email by schools and businesses nationwide, including here in West Michigan.

The threats caused panic and, in some cases, evacuations of buildings. Law enforcement agencies across the country have dismissed the threats, but it certainly caused an uproar.

"It wasn’t like ransomware, like we’ve seen in the past. This was actually a physical threat against a building," said Jared DeMott, a cyber security expert and founder of VDA Labs.

Scores of businesses and institutions across the U.S. received this email bomb threat throughout the day Thursday. The hoax email threatened the recipient to send $20,000 via bitcoin or it claimed a bomb would go off.

DeMott said the email bomb hoax was "unique" but a similar attack could happen again.

"This type of cyber event is only going to increase," said DeMott.

Law enforcement agencies quickly determined the threat wasn't credible. Police responded to a number of threats in Michigan, including a middle school outside of Flint after a staff member received the threat.

"It's kind of scary because they mention bomb, blowing up in the building, but again, it's not true," said Kalamazoo County Undersheriff James VanDyken.

In West Michigan, multiple businesses received the email threat, including an undisclosed business on Glendenning Road, according to Kalamazoo Public Safety.

"What's interesting with the internet, the scale of what can pull something off is now substantially different. Instead of calling one school or mailing one letter, you can replicate this to who knows how many institutions across the world," DeMott said.

DeMott said he believes attackers likely targeted businesses and institutions that could make bitcoin payments.

"It wasn't a mass spam email that went out to everyone in the world. The attackers put some forethought into this," DeMott said.

DeMott said the motives for the bomb hoax seems unclear.

"This had more of the broader terror element in a way than more of the digital element. If they are trying to get paid, it seemed like they jumped out of their league and they're probably going to get caught," DeMott said.

Michigan State Police and other law enforcement agencies are working the FBI. Undersheriff VanDyken said he believes the email hoax is from an international agent.

"The I.P. address has been traced out of the country, potentially to Russia," VanDyken said.

Authorities said anyone that receives the threat should simply ignore it.

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