UF police probe mysterious 'monkey' text


Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 1:49 a.m.

A criminal investigation is under way over a mysterious text message sent Tuesday to University of Florida staff and students, officials with the text-messaging company and university police said Wednesday.

The message - "The monkey got out of the cage" - was sent around 8:45 p.m. to cell phones of tens of thousands of current and former students and staff. Public speculation on online message boards focused on whether it was a racist slur against President Barack Obama.

Mobile Campus CEO David Liniado confirmed an unauthorized individual sent the message from the company's system, which is typically used to send emergency alerts to UF. An investigation is under way about the source of the message, he said.

"We're working diligently to get to the bottom of it," he said.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando said the university's main concern is whether the UF alert system and its data were compromised, but early indications suggested otherwise.

"It does not look like it was hacked into," he said.

Liniado said most students and staff received the message, as well as some former students. There are no indications the message was received by anyone other than individuals who have at some time been associated with UF, he said.

Mobile Campus was started at UF in 2005 and has since expanded to colleges across the country. The company allows schools to send campus-wide emergency alerts about extreme weather or other problems, while also sending promotions to those who agree to receive such offers.

UF police spokesman Capt. Jeff Holcomb said the department is investigating but the source of the message might be outside the university.

"It may be out of our jurisdiction," he said.

Mobile Campus sent an e-mail apologizing to individuals who complained about the message. Liniado said the message was the first time the system was used for unauthorized purposes.

"This is the first of its kind," he said.

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