Unknown hacker posts faux breast cancer survey on university Facebook group

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This undated product image provided by Facebook shows Facebook's “Today In” feature that shows people local news and information, including alerts and stuff like road closures, crime reports and school announcements. The service shows people information from their local towns and cities from sources that range from news publishers to government entities and community groups. Facebook launched the service in January, expanding from an initial six cities to 25, then more. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, “Today In” is expanding to 400 cities in the U.S., and some in Australia. (Facebook via AP)

Female students at the University of Connecticut are contacting the Mansfield Police Department over concerns about a fake survey regarding breast cancer on the “Buy or Sell UConn Tickets” Facebook page that prompted participants to dress provocatively for an online “breast examination.”

The announcement about the survey, which has since been deleted, was posted by a UConn student. She later posted that her account had been hacked by an unidentified person and that the post nor the associated survey was hers. The student could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

“They [the researchers] are conducting a research study looking at how breast features like size and shape can lead to higher or lower risk of cancer,” the post read. “The study they are doing is completely online and involves just taking a few surveys. For doing the study, you can get up to $100 in gift cards to Target or Amazon.”

A female student who wishes to remain anonymous said she received an email with instructions on how to set up Google Hangouts so the second part of the study could proceed. The sender said the app is completely automated and would walk the student through all the necessary measurements.

“It works best if you are wearing something tight fitting with your best fitting bra,” the message said. “It would also best to have other bras handy in case it asks you to change.”

The student said she did not think much of the study until the instructions suggested she take the measurements a bit further.

“Basically there were prompts and I had to turn to the side, like one of those bra measuring apps,” she said. “Then it prompted me to take my top off, which I obviously didn’t do. It gave me numbers which I assumed were for the study.”

The student said she felt uneasy after seeing other girls commenting on the Facebook post with similar concerns about the part two instructions.

Alexis Angelini, a fifth-semester English and communications double major, said she completed the first part of the survey, which was a Google Form that appeared normal and professional.

“I was a little skeptical, but most of the questions were seemingly ‘medical,’ or least the ones I’d expect from a survey of this nature,” Angelini said. “Asking about nerve pain in breasts, size, shape, any back pain, history of cancer.”

Angelini said when she completed part one of the survey, there were directions to contact a woman by the name of Lilly Parkers to continue with part two of the experiment.

“I email her saying I’m interested, and then I get the information that I’d need to do a Google

Hangout with a random person and have them examine my breasts,” Angelini said.

Julia Santos, a seventh-semester communications major, said part one also seemed relatively normal to her and that she did not attempt to take the second part.

“It asked for a password to use and I’m glad that I decided not to use my regular password and made one just for the survey,” Santos said. “I wonder what they would’ve done if I had gone into Google Hangouts? Is this some weird ‘steal your login data’ or ‘steal your breast information?’ Would they have asked for pictures later?”

The original poster, who is a UConn student, later posted in the page and said an individual had gotten into her account and posted the message in an attempt to lure girls in.

“My account was hacked by an unknown person,” the post read. “A lot of people have expressed concern relating to the study and their personal information may have been taken as a result.”

The student then offered help and support for anyone who believes they may have fallen victim to the scam.

“If you have participated in the study/are concerned, please comment or message me personally,” the post read. “I have contacted an officer on behalf of those that may be concerned, and depending on the number of people that may be concerned, an investigation will take place, where higher authorities will pursue the matter.”

The Mansfield police officer in charge of the case could not be reached for comment.

Angelini said the entire scandal is concerning for the massive number of university women who assumed the survey was safe given that it was on UConn’s student page.

“The whole thing is gross and disgusting,” Angelini said. “Hundreds of girls responded to the survey.”

The anonymous student said she will be closely monitoring the situation to make sure the participants are safe.

“I just really hope this gets figured out,” she said. “The web is a scary place and I hope no one actually took their bra off for this.”


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.