Sysadmins at the University College London (UCL) are battling an email storm after spam messages were sent to nearly 29,000 people on an all-student mailing list.
The uni's IT director Mike Cope apologised for the blunder, which happened overnight.
UCL students woke up to find spam messages clogging up their university email accounts and, unsurprisingly, many of them took to Twitter to complain about the cockup using the hashtag #bellogate.
The email storm began when a message that appeared to have come from UCL's president and provost professor Michael Arthur was sent to the all-student mailing list.
It simply carried the subject title of "bello" and a body message of "bello!".
The gaffe was then exacerbated by students replying to the message, in classic email storm fashion. Many of them fell into the obvious trap of requesting to be removed from the mailing list. They were then greeted with spam, having exposed their email addresses.
Cope said in a statement:
Some of these purport to come from the UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur via the previous Provost's e-mail address, provost(at)ucl.ac.uk. However, unfortunately, the problem was compounded because replies were posted to the list, and the email address was used to subscribe to various sites.
UCL ISD [Information Services Division] are investigating this problem as a matter of urgency.
In a series of updates, the IT bod said that the mailing list had been shut down at 9:30am and added that students had been sent texts from UCL which apologised to them for the error.
Cope added that the university was "working on tools to help students delete the spam emails."
Students claimed to have received "several thousand emails" as a result of the blunder. All of which would presumably amount to millions of messages passing through UCL's servers, generating a huge amount of network traffic at the university.
Final #bellogate count: 2938 🐍— Sonja (@LHSonja) October 9, 2014
Finally the emails seem to have stopped! 3001, is the lucky number! #bellogate— Priyam Tyagi (@Priiyam) October 9, 2014
The university, in its most recent update about the snafu, added:
"UCL can confirm that no student bank details have been compromised. This was a simple SPAM attack using a mailing list." ®