A wave of 24,000 emails threatening bomb attacks against more than 400 schools in the UK led to evacuations but were not found to constitute a "viable threat," according to police investigating the matter. In fact, this Sky News report says they were the result of a beef between Minecraft players, and were sent in an effort to bring down the VeltPvP gaming network.
The threat, posted to Twitter, claimed that the bombs were set to detonate three hours after the warning was received unless a $5000 ransom was paid. Some schools were evacuated as a result, according to a separate Express report, which also said that the threatening emails appeared to originate from the US.
"If you do not send the money! We will blow up the device. Our site has all the information needed (veltpvp.com)," it said. "If you try to call the cops we WILL blowup the device on the SPOT! ANY attempt at defusing it your self will cause it to explode."
This message actually evacuated 400 schools in the UK https://t.co/med1VfQ3R8 pic.twitter.com/9pkBFZhLsYMarch 19, 2018
The emails containing the threat were also apparently spoofed to appear as if they were coming from VeltPvP. But the site, which operates Minecraft PvP servers and sells in-game items to players (and is presumably not stupid enough to send bomb threats from its own domain), told Sky that it had nothing to do with any of it, and that the threats were actually part of an ongoing campaign against it that has also included multiple swattings.
"We've been being harassed by a group of cybercriminals that are trying to harass us in any way possible," it said in a statement. "We're extremely sorry for anyone who had to deal with this, but just know it's fake."
Northumbria Police confirmed that the threat was a hoax in a statement of its own.
We have had a number of calls this morning about a bomb hoax at many of our region's schools. All of the schools have been spoken to and there is not believed to be any viable threats #ProudToProtect pic.twitter.com/iGafyMfAvxMarch 19, 2018
One of the alleged perpetrators of the hoax acknowledged that terrorizing thousands of children by threatening to blow them up "is horrible, it's not the nicest thing," but also attempted to justify the action by accusing VeltPvP of taking part in DDoS attacks against other Minecraft servers. "What that network has done is horrible," said the person who felt that threatening to mass-murder schoolchildren was a fair and proportionate response to being mad about a videogame.
One attacker—it's not clear whether it's the same as the one above—expressed regret, "kind of," for the threats, but added, "within the community, you have to become very thick skinned or you'll get exploited ... I'm not going to lose sleep over it."
Police did not say specifically that they were pursuing the hoaxers but it's reasonable to assume that they are, and that if Sky News could find them, so can the cops—perhaps something for people to think about while they're trying to sleep.