Saturday, October 7, 2023

A Visit from the Secret Service

Recently, I reconnected with a high school buddy and subscribed to his Substack, Lou's Joint. His posts resonate with me on a number of levels and, in some cases, bring back memories. In his latest posts, he tells us of his visit from two FBI agents and how he fell for the Nigerian Scam back in the 90s.

I don't remember the exact date, but around the same time Lou was talking to FBI agents, I was face-to-face with two Secret Service agents. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

It was a Monday morning when I walked into the school office to sign in, and the secretary told me that the Superintendent wanted to see me right away. I headed up to the office, and when I walked in, I saw two imposing men dressed in black.

They told me that over the weekend, someone had threatened the life of President Clinton, and they had traced the computer back to our school.

I said something like, "Oh shit! I think I know where that came from." I went on to tell them about the lesson I had given the previous Friday:

"I stood in front of my class holding my keys, my wallet, and my cell phone, and I told the class I would give them all of those things before I would give them my email password. When they questioned why, I told them that if you give someone your password, they can have their lives destroyed."

"No way!" they said.

I went on to say, "I can destroy your lives with just two words." Again, they said, "No way! How?"

I just said, "All I have to do is use your email account, address it to the White House, and say, 'You're dead!' How long do you think it would be before the Secret Service was at your door?" Well, I guess I got the answer about how long it would take.

I was finding it hard to believe that one of my students would be so stupid as to do that, because they already knew about IP address tracing and the lack of anonymity online.

As it turned out, it wasn't a two-word message via email. Someone had come to the White House website where you could leave a message for the President. In the message, they ranted and threatened the life of the President, and left their email address. The email address they left was to a student in a neighboring high school, but the IP address showed it came from our school.

We went to the computer logs and traced it back to a specific computer. Apparently, two boys were enamored of the same girl, and the boy from our school wrote the message and left his rival's name. Much to my relief, it was not my lesson and not my student.

The Secret Service didn't drag him out in cuffs and left the discipline up to the school. As they left, one of the agents turned to me as he put on his aviator sunglasses and said, "Nice lesson." (Just kidding about the aviator sunglasses.)

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