Threats sent to school officials in New York and Los Angeles, leading to the closing of all schools in Los Angeles on Tuesday, was sent using an anonymous email service called “Cockmail.”
The anonymous emails was sent from the address “firstname.lastname@example.org,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Justice Department reporter, Devlin Barrett.
At least two other American cities are believed to have received the email threats. Federal officials are now saying the emails were a hoax. More than 600,000 students were kept out of class in the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday after a decision was made to close down the district by Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
“The preliminary assessment is that it was a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities,” U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff said in a statement. “The investigation is ongoing as to where the threat originated from and who was responsible.”
Here’s what you need to know about the emails and the server they were sent from:
1. The Emails Claimed Bombs & Nerve Gas Would Be Used in Attacks on Several School
According to ABC News, the threatening notes, which New York authorities quickly determined to be a hoax, while Los Angeles officials found it to be a “credible threat,” were similar.
ABC News reports the email said in part, “I am a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I’ll be able to accomplish my massacre the correct way. Something big is going down. Something very big. It will make national headlines. Perhaps, even international ones.”
The writer claimed to have been bullied at a district high school, and said there were bombs hidden in lockers. The email also said “nerve gas” would be used. Officials have said there were several misspellings in the email, including a lower-case “a” in Allah, which suggested it was not a legitimate threat.
2. Cock.li Has More Than 60,000 Users & Is a Self-Described ‘Meme Sewer’
Cock.li, which describes itself as a “meme sewer,” has more than 60,000 users, including its host, Vincent Canfield, according to The Verge.
Canfield confirmed his server was used to send the threats in a Twitter post.
“I have no sympathy with the attacker but if a few emails from my meme email provider can shut down your (school district), that’s an administration problem,” Canfield wrote.
The email users are mainly from the message board site 8chan.
3. New York Investigators Have Subpoenaed Cock.li
According to the man behind Cock.li, Vincent Canfield, New York investigators have subpoenaed the email service for information about the threatening messages. Canfield posted the subpoena and other documents to his website.
“Attached is a subpoena requesting subscriber, IP logs and other user information pertaining to a Cock.li email address, which used to send a threatening email to the superintendent of the NYC Public schools. We are requesting that these results be expedited do to the severity of this threat, thank you for your attention in this matter and have a nice day,” the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Bureau said in an email to Canfield.
The subpoena sought IP addresses and other information about the person behind the email accounts used to make the threats. Canfield submitted that information to police.
No arrests have been made.
4. The Emails Were Routed Through Cock.li’s Server in Germany
Canfield told The Verge that the host server for Cock.li is based in Germany. It has been reported that the emails came from an IP address in Frankurt, but Los Angeles authorities said they think they actually came from closer to LA.
Canfield said the Frankfurt IP address refers to the host server of the email service, not the location of any email address, according to The Verge.
5. Officials in Los Angeles Have Been Criticized for Shutting Down the School System
Los Angeles officials have been criticized for how they handled the threats. New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Los Angeles over-reacted by closing schools. But school district superintendent Ramon Cortines and other officials are standing by their decision.
“”I am not taking a chance of bringing children into a place, into any part of a building, until I know that it’s safe. I, as superintendent, am not going to take the chance with the life of a student,” Cortines said at a press conference.
“It is very easy in hindsight to criticize a decision based on results the decider could never have known,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.
Los Angeles schools are set to re-open on Wednesday.