Teenager arrested over bomb threats sent to thousands of British and US schools

Minecraft server VeltPVP said its domains were 'spoofed' by angry gamers

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 17 May 2018 17:52
Thousands of school children were evacuated over the hoax
Thousands of school children were evacuated over the hoax

A teenager has been arrested in connection with a series of bomb threats that were sent to thousands of schools across Britain and the US in a malicious hoax.

Emails purporting to be from a US-based gaming network that allows users to compete in the Minecraft game, sparked mass evacuations and school closures in March.

Written in both English and Arabic, they claimed a bomb would be detonated on school grounds within three hours unless a $5,000 (£3,700) ransom was paid.

Police surrounded some schools and searched students’ bags as a result.

Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) said an unnamed 18-year-old suspect had been arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill, blackmail and malicious communications.

He was detained at his family home in Hampshire, becoming the third suspect arrested in relation to the hoax.

Hertfordshire Police and the NCA arrested another 18-year-old man in Watford on 21 March, two days after the original threat. He remains under bail conditions which restrict his internet use.

Another 18-year-old man from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire was arrested on 28 March on suspicion of malicious communications.

Minecraft is a game in which users create virtual structures and contraptions out of textured cubes

The three suspects are believed to be “part of the same group”, said NCA senior investigating officer Marc Horsfall, adding: “Other members and anyone thinking of joining them should bear that in mind.”

The emails appeared to come from VeltPVP, a server that allows users to compete in the Minecraft game worldwide.

The company said its domain had been “spoofed” by a group of gamers in a bid to damage its reputation.

“We have nothing to do with the bomb threats that were sent out to the 400+ UK schools,” it said in a statement earlier this year. “We've been being harassed by a group of cyber criminals that are trying to harass us in any way possible.

“We're extremely sorry for anyone who had to deal with this, but just know it's fake.”

Schools were evacuated in cities including London, Birmingham, Bristol and across the UK as a result of the messages, which led to a deluge of calls to police.

“The series of bomb threats caused huge worry and inconvenience to thousands of innocent people,” Mr Horsfall said. “Anyone thinking that law enforcement doesn’t take such offences very seriously should really think again.

“Our investigation demonstrates we will do everything we can to find out who’s behind the attacks and arrest them as soon as possible. Many cyber offenders believe they’re well hidden behind their computer screens.

“But this arrest shows, we will identify you and come for you.”

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