November 28, 2012

What Happened When NYU Students Discovered They Could Email 40,000 People At Once

One student's accidental “reply all” on an archaic Listserve system led to the discovery that practically any NYU student could bombard nearly 40,000 other students with email.

Those are just some of the thousands of emails pumped into my inbox — along with every other NYU student — over the course of the last day.
Student publication NYU Local's tech editor, Ben Zweig, explained how this could have possibly happened:
NYU uses something called E-Mail Direct for most mass emails. That system is meant for one-way emailing. E-Mail Direct does not allow for reply-alls, therefore you cannot respond to most mass emails. Several NYU departments still rely on the older, discussion-based ListManager program, however. ListManager also sends mass emails, but allows discussions (in the form of reply-alls), unless the settings are adjusted, disabling group discussions and only permitting emails from admins.
David Vogelsang of the NYU Student Resource Center, the initiator of the email, finally fessed up and told NYU Local:
Hi everyone — I’m the culprit behind the Lyris blunder. I was assisting the Bursar with an email message and in populating one of the SRC Listserves did not realize the list I was using was one that allowed for responses and thus the “replyallcalypse”.
This morning I deleted everyone on the list. ITS had disabled around midnight, but there were so many that responded, emails were still in the que. Thanks to ITS, the que was cleared and the listserve deleted. We are monitoring for any residual emails.
And yes, you are absolutely correct that I should have used Email Direct instead of Lyris.
I take full responsibility for this blunder and offer my sincere apologies for the frustrating situation that was created.
David Vogelsang
NYU Student Resource Center

No comments:

Post a Comment