Controversy and intrigue have been circulating among the Williston senior class ever since a mysterious email appeared.
On Friday April 15 at 11:15 a.m., an email was sent from the alias of Samuel Williston providing a link to an anonymous “senior confessions” google forms page. Students have been suspicious of true intentions and desperate to uncover the hidden sender.
Instead of using the more simple shortcut of sending to Veracross’ class of 2022 email chain, the sender typed in each individual email handle for each of Williston’s seniors and postgraduate students. It is widely speculated that the culprit did this to avoid the confirmation needed from the dean’s office when using the email-list shortcut. Between that speculation and the fact that the email was not sent to any faculty or administrators, it is clear that this email was not school sanctioned, making students question the reliability of this email.
This email from a fraudulent Samuel Williston encouraged students to “create a legacy at the Williston Northampton School” and send in their worst secrets to “uncover what really goes down when no one’s looking”.
The sender also claimed to publish some of these stories on May 1, “After that date, I will send out another email with the best of your worst secrets,” they wrote.
However, in their haste, the sender accidently sent this email to the wrong S. Michalski. Instead of senior Sofia Michalski, the email meant for the class of 2022 went to her mother and member of Williston’s teaching staff, Sue Michalski. This simple mistake ruined the secrecy and put the email on administration’s radar.
Three days after the email was sent, Chief Information Officer Andrew Shelffo followed up claiming the email was sent from a phisher.
“This particular email has all the marks of a phishing email designed to collect personal information to be used for nefarious purposes,” Shelffo wrote. “It’s unsolicited, it comes from an unknown sender, and it contains a link to a form controlled by someone you don’t know asking for personal information. The sending email address also contains a misspelling.”
Despite many layers of intercepting technology, many emails of this sort are sent to the Williston community, as prep schools like Williston are often targets of phishers.
“We have several layers of security set up to prevent them from getting to the end user, though obviously these layers are not foolproof,” Shelffo said. “But I can say that Williston—and other schools like Williston—are under constant attack from hackers looking to gather information, launch a virus, or capture someone’s financial information. Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways that hackers steal information. This is why we all have to be careful about what emails we open and what links we click on.”
He advised students to stay vigilant and not share their most scandalous secrets with this mystery sender.
“I would hope that you would all be smart enough to realize that you should not be sharing personal information via this form.”
However, some recipients of the email disagree with Shelffo’s phishing viewpoint.
Hannah Choi, a senior from Seoul, Korea, believes that the mysterious sender was actually a Williston senior.
“I definitely thought that it was a student just from the language of the email and the email sender’s name and stuff like that,” Hannah said. “I just think this is different because this email is a lot more directed at our grade, so it definitely felt like someone in our grade trying to get the rest of the seniors to confess to whatever the subject is.”
Sarah Drucker, a senior headed to Tulane University next year, agrees, “I don’t think it was spam, I think it was a Williston kid.”
Even Shelffo acknowledges this possibility, though he believes it is more likely a scammer.
“The fact is, anyone can create a Gmail account and use whatever name they want for that account, as long as that name is available,” he said.
“However the IP address the email came from is one that often sends email that our security
system flags as spam,” he continued. “In other words, it’s more likely that the sender of that email has been sending other spam-like email. There were also some irregularities in the email addresses it was sent to that would indicate either a sloppy job by a student, which is possible, or some kind of bot that got the information wrong.”
Furthermore, many students noticed the interesting diction and syntax of the email, paralleling it to that of the infamous anonymous gossip writer from hit television show “Gossip Girl.”
Most significantly, the strange sender signed off with the valediction complimentary close of “love,” very similar to the “Gossip Girl’s” own renowned close of “xoxo”.
There is even a rumor among students that the sender could be a teacher or faculty member trying to uncover students’ secrets and expose potential rulebreakers.
Hannah doesn’t agree with this rumor, reasoning that a simple prank is not on the agenda of Williston administrators.
Regardless of the true identity of this perplexing individual, seniors are on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a follow-up email on May 1.
Adeline Hume, a senior attending Syracuse University next year, is incredibly entertained by this whole situation.
“I think this email is the most insane thing that’s ever happened at Williston,” she said.