An online group named “Evacuation Squad” is claiming responsibility for a wave of worldwide school bomb threats, according to the digital media website Mashable and news outlets in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Mashable says that Evacuation Squad is made up of six international members and listed a Russian email address on its social media accounts. A spokesperson for the group identified as Viktor Olyavich said the group makes the threats “because they are funny to us” and added:
“We are preparing to do schools across Europe as we speak. We don’t worry about the consequences, because our main threat-makers are based in Russia and Iran,” Olyavich said. “We are doing so many at once due to a stolen VOIP account that has a trove of calling credit.”
Pay-to-threaten program targeting schools starts March 1st
The group reportedly is accepting requests to call in bomb threats at schools, businesses and sports facilities. Starting in March, the group plans to charge bitcoins, a form of digital currency, for fulfilling such threat requests:
“Until March, 2015, you may send in requests for your school/work/business/etc to be sent a bomb threat. After March 1st, of 2015, we will be accepting Bitcoin only as payment,” the group wrote.
Charges for making a threat to one school will be $5 while targeting an entire school district will cost $10, according to a screenshot of a message from the group.
Electronic school bomb threats spread worldwide
Schools across Australia were targets of threats received threats last week. Similar bomb threats have recently occurred around the world including in the United States, United Kingdom, Guam, Japan and Paris.
An Australian news service identifies Evacuation Squad as a “pro-Putin cyber group”, referring to Russia’s leader, and that it “…also announced its support for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime and claimed it was controlled by ‘six individuals based internationally’.” The report credited Evacuation Squad as the source of, “…phone calls that caused major disruption at schools in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria over the past few days as well as the UK, Hawaii, Paris, Japan, the US and Guam over the past few weeks.”
In an article by the UK’s The Guardian Professor Sanjay Jha, the director of cybersecurity and privacy at the University of NSW, said that tracking down these types of threat perpetrators can be difficult for police when they originate from across international borders:
“It means if people are malicious and have created an account with a false identity and they’re outside Australian jurisdictions, it can be difficult to trace where they are or the people behind it. These servers are typically not in a locations where Australian authorities can easily access them.”
Worldwide school threats similar to recent wave of threats targeted at U.S. schools
Several weeks ago, police investigated bomb and shooting threats that targeted schools in six states. In December, electronic threats targeted schools in Los Angeles and New York, followed by major school districts in other states in the days that followed. We continue to see similar threats occurring weekly in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
The identification of the Evacuation Squad as a reported source of the wave of school bomb threats is the first known time that a specific group has been associated with the massive wave of electronic threats targeting schools in recent months. In early November, I wrote about the uptick in “swatting” incidents — hoax threats intended to trigger a massive police response — in U.S. schools and how the FBI is increasingly involved in these threat investigations. To date, the FBI has yet to acknowledge any task force or official wide scale federal investigation, although there are numerous indicators that such an investigation may have long been underway.
Our national study of more than 800 violent school threats identifies school threat assessment and management strategies
Our groundbreaking national study of more than 800 violent school threats published in February of 2015 laid out policy and practice implications for threat assessment and management by schools. Our recommendations include:
- Schools need threat assessment teams, training and protocols developed in collaboration with first responders
- School and safety officials need to assess and then react, not react with knee-jerk, emotional actions and then assess threats
- All threats need to be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly, but doing so does not automatically equate to evacuation and/or closings of schools
- School leaders need to have plans for heightened security when threats occur
- Schools need crisis communications plans and social media strategies to communicate with their constituencies in a timely, accurate manner to mitigate the misinformation, rumors and anxiety spread through social media and traditional media when threats occur
School Threat Assessment Training (STAT) provides best practices to help school administrators and their safety teams
To help school administrators, crisis teams, threat assessment teams and their public safety community partners better understand and manage the latest school threat trends, we created our STAT – School Threat Assessment Training program. This one-to-two day workshop is designed to improve awareness and response to threats, including individual student threats, bomb threats, “swatting” school shooting hoaxes, and mass text message rumors of violence.
An emphasis of our training is placed on practical, common-sense steps that school administrators, counselors, threat assessment teams, crisis teams, and safety officials can take for more cognitive, less emotional responses to school threat scenarios. Unlike other threat assessment workshops, our program is presented by a multi-disciplinary team of established prek-12 school experts from school security and police, school psychology and school administration disciplinary perspectives all in one program.
To discuss our study or for more information on our STAT training, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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