Students at the Parrish High School in Manatee County, Florida, United States have had their studies disrupted several times over the past few weeks as a result of anonymous bomb threats that have forced the evacuation of their school.
Two threats were made via the FortifyFL app which is a specialist app designed to allow people to make anonymous tip offs to law enforcement agencies and officials about potential school safety concerns.
As a result of these tip-offs, the school had to be evacuated while bomb-sniffer dogs searched the school grounds to ascertain that there was no viable device and that the bomb threat was, in fact, a hoax.
VPNs being used to spread bomb threats
You might be wondering at this point why VPNCompare is covering a story about hoax bomb threats at a high school in Florida.
Well, this is because one of anonymous threats made to the FortifyFL app was made from a Romanian IP address.
And while it is not totally impossible that someone in Romania might want to make bomb threats against a US high school, it is far more likely that these threats were made by someone using a VPN.
That’s not proving too easy to ascertain at the moment though, partly at least because the FortifyFL app is actually based in California meaning that Detectives are having to jump through hoops to subpoena data from a different state.
Certainly the detectives investigating the hoaxes seem to believe it is a locally-based VPN user that is responsible, although one did tell the Bradenton Herald that “We’re currently working with the FBI to help us out in Romania and also in California.”
Serious penalties for using a VPN in this way
We should stress at this point that using a VPN in this way is deeply irresponsible and we in no way condone the actions of whoever the individual responsible for these bomb threats are.
Whether it is a student trying to get out of class or someone with more malign intentions, it is clear that such actions are causing a huge amount of stress and emotional trauma to students and their families, not to mention the significant amount of disruption to classes and waste of police time and resources that are happened as a result of their actions.
If the individual responsible is identified, they will also face serious criminal charges.
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells has warned that the individual responsible could face a second-degree felony for written threats of harm for each threat made, as well as other misdemeanour charges.
That information is unlikely to come from their VPN provider, depending on which VPN service they are using. But the local law enforcement has asked for any children or parents with suspicions of who might be responsible to come forward.
To further incentivise people in the local community, there is also a US$500 reward on offer for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and charging of anyone in relation to these bomb hoaxes.
Anyone reading this with information should contact the Manatee County Crime Stoppers.