Thursday, March 01, 2012

important dates

Important dates:

mid-March of 2011 - I theorized of the worst potential scenario for the artificially generated stampede.

9-2-11 - I completed the initial draft of my book and published it on the internet as a sole blog entry (

11-27-11 - I electronically submitted the final draft of my book to the United States Copyright Office.

2-1-12 - I received the official copyright for for my book (Sonofsaf odd oh biography) from the Library of Congress: U.S. Copyright Office (postmarked 1-30-12).

Registration Number:  TX 7-471-234
Alternative Registration #: TX0007471234
Service Request #: 1-691042477
Effective date of registration: November 27, 2011

1-15-12 - I arranged a meeting and shared my concerns with a retired FBI agent from Wheeling, WV.  We had an insightful, back and forth discussion for about 30 minutes.  I requested that he contact the Pittsburgh division of the FBI on my behalf.

2-17-12 - The retired FBI agent informed me that he had placed a call to the FBI Pittsburgh office regarding my concerns on either 2-13-12 or 2-14-12.

2-22-12 - I met with a representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wheeling, WV field office for roughly 25 minutes.  He said he would write a report and "send it up the chain."  I asked him to write a brief letter documenting our meeting and he declined.

I had spoken with the office of the Regional Director in an attempt to arrange a meeting with the Pittsburgh office but was advised to have my concerns addressed by the Wheeling field office.  The secretary confirmed that she was familiar with my identity via the earlier placed call from the retired agent.

3-1-12 - I sent a letter with the following content:

Re: The prospect of an artificially generated stampede in NCAA Division I football stadiums

In 1913, 73 people were crushed to death in the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan.  This event is generally regarded as the basis for placing reasonable limitations on the First Amendment.  Most refer to it as "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater."  Roughly a century later, allow me to pose a similar question.  Is it conceivable to text "fire" in a crowded stadium?  If a significant number of individuals received a text message conveying IMMINENT DANGER and/or the NEED TO IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE, the consequences could be catastrophic.  It would likely result in an artificially generated stampede.

Following the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, companies offering mass emergency text alerts became more commonplace.  Many of these companies offer SMS (short message service) systems to anyone willing to pay for them.  It's just a matter of time before someone with a pernicious agenda opts to utilize this platform.  Furthermore, a perpetrator would probably seek maximum impact as it would likely be a one-time occurrence.

Now consider the prospect for two or more simultaneous stampedes.  National news outlets might unintentionally exacerbate the problem by providing breaking news updates.  With the prevalence of social media and instant cellular notifications, there could be a domino effect.  Anyone in the confines of a college football stadium would find themselves in a dangerous location.  The vulnerability of just two stadiums could expose all occupied stadiums to a stampede cascade effect.  Stadiums would be most at risk during the first two weeks of the season as the biggest programs often have consecutive home games. 

While security and safety measures have been greatly enhanced in the last decade, there has never been a credible plan to safely evacuate a stadium in the event of a sudden panic.  Why?  Because it's simply not logistically feasible.  We have already witnessed the evolution of flash mobs and the recent spread of dangerous viral text hoaxes.  The prospect of hacking and manipulating a campus text alert system or cellular service provider represents the gravest concern.  But it's simply the mere existence and availability of lengthy lists of cell phone numbers corresponding to individuals (students, faculty and/or season ticket holders) in a confined location.  This, combined with the established level of trust placed in emergency SMS communication, represents the underlying problem.  

While I doubt that I am the first person to conceive of this potential threat, I do suspect this is the first time you've heard about an artificially generated stampede.  Other than virally spread text hoaxes, I've seen nothing about deliberately transmitting false texts in an attempt to create a sudden, mass panic.  There seems to be no discussion of this asymmetric security issue in the public domain.  I am neither an expert in the field of wireless communication nor crowd dynamics.  However, if you connect the dots between large crowds and the potential misuse of SMS technology, I think you'll agree that my concerns are justified.

Being a "whistle blower" for a hypothetical national security threat is not something I relish, but I cannot in good conscience remain silent.  So in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security's "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, I have made a moral determination to send you this letter.  I implore you to research this issue and take preventative action.  And while this problem is well beyond my area of expertise, I do have some ideas regarding general awareness campaigns and possible countermeasures.  You are welcome to contact me to discuss this matter further.  Considering the serious nature of this issue, I have taken the liberty of copying this letter to the presidents of NCAA Division I universities with sizable football stadiums.

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy


It was sent to these individuals:

Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Chairman Julius Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission
Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education

President Barbara Couture, New Mexico State University
President M.R.C. Greenwood, University of Hawaii
President William P. Leahy, Boston College
President V. Lane Rawlins, University of North Texas
Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., Texas Christian University
President Eugene G. Sander, University of Arizona
Chancellor G. Daniel Howard, Arkansas State University
President Robert M. Berdahl, University of Oregon
President Nathan O. Hatch, Wake Forest University
President Rodney A. Erickson, Penn State
President Bernie Machen, University of Florida
President Kirk H. Shulz, Kansas State University
President Eric J. Barron, Florida State University
President G.P. "Bud" Peterson, University of Georgia Tech
President Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State University
President John G. Peters, University of Northern Illinois
President John C. Hitt, University of Central Florida
President Bob Kustra, Boise State University
President Robert E. Witt, University of Alabama
President John D. Welty, Fresno State University
President Wallace D. Loh, University of Maryland
President Joseph Savoie, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, University of California, Berkeley
Chancellor David Ward, University of Wisconsin
Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Syracuse University
Chancellor Randy Woodson, North Carolina State University
President Eli Capilouto, University of Kentucky
President William Powers, Jr., University of Texas
President Mark E. Keenum, Mississippi State University
President Lester A. Lefton, Kent State University
Chancellor Steve Ballard, East Carolina University
President Mary Ellen Mazey, Bowling Green State University
Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould, U.S. Air Force Academy
President Mary Jane Saunders, Florida Atlantic University
Chancellor Brady J. Deaton, University of Missouri
President Mark B. Rosenberg, Florida International University
President Ken Starr, Baylor University
Chancellor Philip DiStefano, University of Colorado
President David L. Boren, University of Oklahoma
President R. Gerald Turner, Southern Methodist University
President Lloyd A. Jacobs, University of Toledo
Provost Patrica E. Beeson, University of Pittsburgh
President Gary A. Randsell, Western Kentucky University
President Michael Young, University of Washington
President Gregory Geoffroy, Iowa State University
President Stephen J. Kopp, Marshall University
President Daniel D. Reneau, Louisiana Tech University
President Sidney A. McPhee, Middle Tennessee State University
President Guy Bailey, Texas Tech University
President Jay Gogue, Auburn University
President George E. Ross, Central Michigan University
Chancellor Holden Thorp, University of North Carolina
President M. Duane Nellis, University of Idaho
President Sally Mason, University of Iowa
President R. Bowen Loftin, Texas A&M University
President Charles Steger, Virginia Tech
President Cecil O. Samuelson, Brigham Young University
President Carol Garrison, University of Alabama Birmingham
President Shirley C. Raines, The University of Memphis
President Amy Weaver Hart, Temple University
President C.L. Max Nikias, University of Southern California
President Scott S. Cowen, Tulane University
President Marc Johnson, University of Nevada, Reno
President Nick J. Bruno, The University of Louisiana at Monroe
President Elson S. Floyd, Washington State University
President James F. Barker, Clemson University
President Michael J Hogan, University of Illinois
President Michael A. McRobbie, Indiana University
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, University of Kansas
Chancellor Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska
Superintendent LTG David H. Huntoon, Jr., United States Military Academy
President Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan
President James P. Clements, West Virginia University
Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, United States Naval Academy
Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, University of Tennessee
President Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati
President John I. Jenkins, University of Notre Dame
President E. Gordon Gee, The Ohio State University
President James Ramsey, University of Louisville
President Roderick J. McDavis, Ohio University
President Elliot Hirshman, San Diego State University
President Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida
Chancellor Dave Gearhart, University of Arkansas
President Susan Herbst, University of Connecticut
President Edward J. Ray, Oregon State University
President David W. Leebron, Rice University
President A. Lorris Betz, University of Utah
President Martha D. Saunders, University of Southern Mississippi
President Renu Khator, University of Houston
President Stan L. Albrecht, Utah State University
Chancellor Gene D. Block, University of California, Los Angeles
President France A. Cordova, Purdue University
President Richard L. McCormick, Rutgers University
President Morton Schapiro, Northwestern University
President Susan Martin, Eastern Michigan University
President Neal Smatresk, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
President Michael F. Adams, University of Georgia
President Jo Ann M. Gora, Ball State University
President Teresa Sullivan, University of Virginia
President Steadman Upham, University of Tulsa
President Anthony A. Frank, Colorado State University
President Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State University
President Mohammad Qayoumi, San Jose State University
President John Hennessy, Stanford University
President Luis Proenza, University of Akron
President Diana Natalicio, University of Texas at El Paso
President Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University
President Donna E. Shalala, University of Miami
President Eric W. Kaler, University of Minnesota
Chancellor Mike Martin, Louisiana State University
President David J. Schimdly, University of New Mexico
President Satish K. Tripathi, University at Buffalo
Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, Vanderbilt University
Chancellor Daniel W. Jones, University of Mississippi
Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr., Troy University
President John M. Dunn, Western Michigan University
President Richard H. Brodhead, Duke University
President Tom Buchanan, University of Wyoming
President Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina
President David C. Hodge, Miami University


Anonymous said...

If universities have their own SMS alert providers and alert with their branding, it would take someone hacking into the alert system to send a false alert under the University's banner. The alert providers must show site security.

A major athletic facility would have a fire alarm system, so a text that says "fire" without smoke or alarm sounding would not likely be heeded. Something more nefarious like a bomb threat via University alert text would likely create concern and cancel sporting events, but you don't need to hack into alert technology to create that. Someone would only need to tweet the threat--or call it in old school style.

Have there been instances of text alert systems being hacked? If not for this type of thing, to cancel classes?

Anonymous said...

what a Knucklehead. Notification systems have been in use by thousands of colleges for many many years, yet there is not a single documented case of this so called "artificial stampede" caused by a system hack. Aside from the fact that a system hack of this type would be highly illegal, if someone truly wanted to accomplish this they would just go to twitter or Facebook and skip the hack.

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