Hackers plant obscene image on electronic billboard in Atlanta

Graham Cluley

I’ve spoken before about hackers f**king around with road signs to display images claiming everything from zombie outbreaks to Dalek invasions.

But a couple of weeks ago, it seems that the hackers went one step further and attacked an electronic billboard remotely to display an obscene image to motorists and passers-by in the affluent uptown district of Buckhead, Atlanta.

I’ve censored the image of the hacked billboard below, but if you’re curious what the image was (the BBC News report, probably quite rightly, waltzes around the issue) it’s Goatse.

Not terribly pleasant...

Please please. Do NOT search for Goatse on the web. If you don’t know what Goatse is, consider yourself lucky.

According to one news report, some onlookers were so upset by what they saw that they called the police:

One driver was so disturbed she called 911.

“There’s an electronic billboard that is flashing a naked man,” one woman said in the 911 call. “It’s not actually an emergency; it’s just totally disgusting.”

The FBI is said to be investigating the hack, which reportedly also impacted some other electronic billboards owned by Yesco across the United States.

Interestingly, security expert Dan Tentler has recently been sharing on Twitter his dialogs with Yesco regarding the security of their systems and the risks of an attack, claiming that the company was using easy-to-guess passwords.

Tweet

In the wake of the hack, Tentler claims that signs run by the company remained online and accessible to hackers following the breach.

On Reddit, a group calling itself the Assange Shuffle Collective claimed responsibility for the hack, but there’s no way to verify if that is true or not.

Claim on Reddit

After all, I could create a Reddit userid and claim that the Beryl Reid Appreciation Society was behind recent hacks against healthcare insurers, but it wouldn’t make it true.

Remember folks, don’t use default passwords. Make your passwords unique, hard-to-crack and impossible to guess. Ideally use some form of multi-factor authentication so even if your password is compromised it will be much harder for an unauthorised party to cause any havoc with it.

And if a security researcher contacts you about a vulnerability in your system, take him seriously. After all, who knows who might else have discovered it?

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

2 Replies to “Hackers plant obscene image on electronic billboard in Atlanta”

  1. I thought by obscene you meant pictures of starving children or the devastation in Nepal. That that would be a statement

    1. People don't typically think in those terms (awareness of awful living conditions in other parts of the world, for example) for things like this (billboards, signs, etc.). If they do it would be legally and not unauthorised alteration. Those that do would go about it a way that actually makes a difference (and indeed adverts is one way but they wouldn't go about it like this – it would take credibility away) rather than cause upset/disgust/etc. for those unfortunate enough to pass by at the wrong time. These people do it this way because they want people to see it for their own amusement. They might claim things like they're trying to make a point (they are but it isn't what they claim or maybe better stated they're making additional points) but in any case they're actually disregarding others – potentially emergency including life-threatening – by altering the billboard. They're being irresponsible while showing deeper problems in themselves. Whether it is a cry for help I'll not judge (I don't know and I won't pretend to) but in any case they're showing more than what they believe (communication occurs in many different forms). In the end they're communicating with others for whatever reasons it might be.

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