Tech Tips: Cyber Bomb Threats

In December we’ve seen two types of bomb threats delivered via the internet. One on a broad scale, directed at multiple targets across the nation, another hitting very close to home, threatening a Spokane school. Both were treated as legitimate, however, were later revealed to be hoaxes or scams.

Even if the threat does not seem credible, we must take it seriously. Too many lives would be at risk should the threat prove to be real.

Local Threat Via SnapChat

SnapChat is one of the most frequently used social mediums. It is most often used by teenagers and young adults. Recently, a Spokane teenager decided to create a bomb threat, rather than face going to school.

Per the Spokane County Sheriff’s press release: “Investigators learned the suspect made a fraudulent SnapChat account and posted the threat because she ‘didn’t want to go to school’. She then took a screenshot of the message, showing the fraudulent account as the sender, and began sending it out to her friends. Some continued to disseminate this threat without reporting it to law enforcement, school officials, or parents, causing fear to spread rapidly.”

However, a few of the individuals immediately reported the threat upon receipt. Their action prompted an investigation and precautions to be taken by the following day.

The suspect has since been booked into the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Facility for Harassment and Threats to Bomb or Injure Property, both felonies.

On The National Stage

There is an email that has been sent out on a mass scale to many businesses and schools, wherein the sender claims to have planted a bomb in the building, and follows with a statement that unless the recipient of the email pays a certain amount of money in bitcoin (see definition below) the sender will detonate the bomb.

This threat was sent far and wide, but a few of the emails landed close to home as well. Schools and businesses in Spokane received an email stating there was a bomb in the building and demanding $20,000 US Ddollars in Bitcoins be sent to the aggressor, or they would have someone detonate the device.

The email advises the recipient not to contact the police or authorities, further plunging the victim into the fear of possibility. Though this particular group of emails has been identified as a scam, every threat should be taken seriously. Buildings were evacuated and locked down in countless locations until they were determined to be safe.

What Are Bitcoins?

Bitcoins are a type of electronic currency that is independent of government and regulation. The technology makes it nearly impossible to track. As a result, it has become popular with hackers and scammers. Though popular as a high risk investment, Bitcoins do have a number of legitimate uses.

See It – Say It

Threats, in any form, are not jokes. Law enforcement does not take them lightly, nor should we. Though they can be hoaxes or poorly thought out statements, sometimes they can indicate an actual threat and danger. Our children and families are too important to risk.

If you see or receive a threat: stay calm and contact the police immediately. The phrase “See it – Say it” means, just that: see a threat, point it out to someone in authority.

The Spokane County Sheriff asks that we report threats immediately and not share or forward them on social media, as that only hinders investigations and spreads fear.

For more information on how to deal with threats, see the Department of Homeland Security’s Bomb Threat Checklist:

Article originally published in the Deer Park Gazette, a subsidiary of TRECpro LLC.