Palm Beach Atlantic University sophomore Kierstin Harmon found herself scrolling through the Campus Safety and Security page on my.pba.edu Thursday (Feb. 8) in an attempt to locate an email address. Instead, Harmon discovered under the Weather Alerts section an advertisement halfway down the department’s webpage with the heading titled “Natural Viagra.”
“I just wasn’t really like paying attention until I got to the ‘Natural Viagra’ and I was like ‘wait, what?’” Harmon said.
The advertisement’s first paragraph described a product entitled “Male Extra” which is used for “male enhancement” and referred to it as “the best testosterone boosters on the market of this year.” The fourth paragraph referenced the “quality of our penis extender” product and included a hyperlink to an online store.
The Beacon Today contacted Associate Vice President for University Relations and Marketing Becky Peeling via email Thursday 4:16 p.m. to inquire about the advertisement, its purpose and who could answer questions about its posting.
An hour after that email was sent, everything on the Campus Safety and Security home page was removed, except for a “Message From the Chief” Douglas Reece.
“We are proud to be a part of a dynamic Christ-centered university,” read the first line.
At 5:43 p.m., Campus Information Services sent an email to the student and faculty listserv indicating “myPBA will be temporarily unavailable for maintenance from 11:00 p.m. to approximately 11:30 p.m.”
The Beacon Today attempted to access myPBA at 8:54 p.m. and an error message appeared on the website.
This is a video captured by The Beacon Today staff recording the "Natural Viagra" advertisement as it appeared on myPBA's Campus Safety and Security homepage. (via iPhone)
A follow-up email sent by The Beacon Today on Friday to Peeling at 10:44 a.m. asked a second time for an interview “about the ad we discovered on MyPBA.” Peeling responded within minutes that “this is the first I have heard from you and about this.” She was also informed that this story had a Friday 4 p.m. deadline for publication.
Towards the end of the working day, The Beacon Today Editor-in-chief Taylor Fry once again reached out to Peeling to inquire about how an advertisement for “Natural Viagra” posted on myPBA.
Peeling said the university discovered someone left the edit access open for the Campus Safety and Security webpage. That allowed a web bot to post the ad.
“This is not a security concern for us,” Peeling said, “because this type of access only allows things to be posted” rather than retrieve information from the page.
After the university received notices of what happened – including from The Beacon Today – the page was locked down.
“They looked for other pages that may have had any other open access,” Peeling said.
“We are proud to be a part of a dynamic Christ-centered university,” read a message from Campus Safety and Security Chief Douglas Reece.