Hacked roadside billboards are in the news again, so it felt like a good time to take a look back on some of the more notable incidents that have caught the media’s attention in the past…
No, you don’t have to worry about a botnet bombarding you. It’s zombies in Austin, Texas, you have to watch out for.
Practical jokers meddled with a a road sign to warn drivers of an invasion from Skaro’s much-feared tin pepperpots:
“WARNING DALEKS AHEAD”
It’s a new year, but mischief-makers have quickly forgotten their resolution not to f**k around with road signs.
— Daina Beth Solomon (@dainabethcita) January 9, 2015
At least they’re encouraging literacy…
Hackers remotely attacked an electronic billboard display to show the obscene Goatse image (Don’t Google it. If you don’t know what Goatse is, consider yourself lucky. You’ve been warned.) to motorists and passers-by in the affluent uptown Buckhead district of Atlanta.
Naughty Welsh hackers meddled with a billboard on Cardiff’s main shopping street, to display swastikas, far-right images, and Big Brother.
As Carole Theriault discussed on an episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast, the hackers seized control of the digital advertising display after stealing its TeamViewer login credentials and locking out its genuine operator.
It’s not all zombies and porn, sometimes road sign hackers can comment on topical political news stories.
Oh those naughty roadsign hackers… https://t.co/FaXdGm4uOB
— Graham Cluley (@gcluley) September 27, 2019
“IMPEACH THE BASTARD”
And, back to porn again…
Drivers on the interstate in Auburn Hills, Michigan, were greeted by an eyebrow-raising sight: a pornographic movie featuring adult actresses Xev Bellringer and Princess Leia (with a possible bit part played by an unidentified gentleman).
I'm flattered, but keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel! Get off at the next exit, if you must ;) https://t.co/gcfOU8q7Ik
— Xev Bellringer (@xev_bellringer) September 30, 2019
Police posted video footage of two suspects breaking into a shed containing the computer which was controlling the billboard.
We discussed the whole sordid affair with the type of gravitas it rightly deserves on an episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast.
Although lists like this can be amusing, we shouldn’t ignore that there’s a serious side to this.
Hacked electronic billboards and road signs can be a huge distraction for motorists, and it’s easy to imagine how an accident could occur which might result in a driver or pedestrian being injured… or worse.
I’m sure most of these roadside defacements are being done with mischief in mind, exploiting default passwords, a lack of multi-factor authentication, poorly-maintained systems, and sloppy security (sometimes it’s poor computer security, sometimes physical, not uncommonly it’s both).
In short, if you hack a road sign or electronic billboard you might gain the attention of the media but you’re not proving that you have done anything “clever” or “novel”. There are rarely leet hacking skills on show in such attacks, and no-one who knows anything about security is going to be remotely impressed.
Nonetheless, because you may be putting public safety at risk, don’t be surprised if law enforcement officers fail to see the funny side of your roadside prank.