Hackers, Robocalls and Bomb Threats


Schools, hospitals and businesses in the US have been receiving automated bomb threats that were traced to Russia. The threats were generated by robocalling programs, similar to automated technology politicians and telemarketers use to disseminate messages that shield the identity of the caller. Recently, calls to Rhode Island were tracked by state police who were able to trace automated phone calls made to schools in Newport, Middletown and Warwick to St. Petersburg, Russia. There are unconfirmed reports that a hacking group called the “Evacuation Squad” is using stolen VOIP accounts to simultaneously make multiple calls. It is unlikely that any of the suspects will be identified due to a lack of cooperation from Russian authorities and the robocalling systems being used are difficult to trace. The calls have not been tied to any real event but are intended to create fear and disruption, and have led to evacuations and worry from parents, students and school officials, especially in Newport, where schools were threatened four times over a five day period.

Until recently, bomb threats generally occurred at one location for a specific reason. The use of robocalls to make threats to many locations simultaneously is relatively new. Considering the culprits may be in another country using hacked accounts is something to consider in crisis plans, and with varied responses by organizations, a crisis management plan should be in place detailing what to do if a threat occurs. For example, the nation’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles and New York, received the same threat simultaneously.  Los Angeles officials decided to close the schools, while New York authorities dismissed the threat as a hoax.

Even though there have been no reports of bomb devices discovered, with these new cyber driven bomb threats, schools and public locations need to be prepared and ready to respond. And while there are a number of common responses to bombs and other threats that apply to almost any setting, the environment of schools is sufficiently different to warrant separate consideration. Each school should have its own threat assessment team and school threat protocols. Some basic guiding principles include:

  • Treat all threats seriously
  • Investigate the incident promptly and efficiently
  • Use support staff and external resources as a part of a multidisciplinary threat assessment team to evaluate threats
  • Take appropriate disciplinary and criminal enforcement steps
  • Document the threats and actions taken
  • Enhance security measures, as appropriate, to insure the safety of all students, staff, and facilities

Speak with a HUB International Risk Manager today for assistance with conducting a threat assessment or to develop and implement a violence free school plan tailored to your needs, demographics and location.