‘Vulgar’ emails sent to IW students

Published 6:28 pm Friday, January 8, 2021

Officials with Isle of Wight County Schools are blaming a hacker for “vulgar” and “despicable” emails sent to roughly 90 students multiple times Jan. 5.

According to spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, the school division’s investigation thus far indicates the hacker gained control of the student email account around 8:20 p.m. the day of the incident from somewhere outside the IWCS network, and sent a “reply all” message to a teacher’s email thread, consisting of one long 22-word sentence repeated multiple times.

The Smithfield Times has not yet obtained a copy of the message, but WAVY-TV 10 reports the email referenced a hate group and contained racist and homophobic slurs.

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The students who received the offensive emails received a follow-up email from their teacher at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 6, informing them of the hack and subsequent investigation, Briggs said. Smithfield High School Principal Bryan Thrift then emailed all SHS parents about the incident Jan. 7.

“We do know that the emails were not a product of the student from whose account the messages were sent,” Thrift said. “The account was disabled as soon as we were alerted in order to prevent additional emails.”

According to Briggs, the hacker used a virtual private network to gain access to IWCS systems, which routed his or her IP address through the United Kingdom. An IP address, or internet protocol, is a unique numerical address that allows a computer to send and receive information. It can also be used to approximate a computer’s geographic location — unless masked by a VPN, in which case an observer will see the IP address of the VPN instead of a device’s actual location, according to PC Mag.