“ROADWORK AHEAD,” “EXPECT DELAYS” and “LANE CLOSURE” are the types of messages you expect on those electronic message boards you pass while entering or driving through a construction zone.
But how about “WARNING ZOMBIES AHEAD!” or “NUCLEAR FALLOUT AHEAD” or, as one hacker posted overnight along Route 25 northeast of St. Charles, “PANTS SNAKES RISE AGAIN”?
Apparently, the practice is more common than you might think — there are even “how-to” websites devoted to the practice. One site, Jalopnik.com, has a page whose straightforward title about how to hack electronic message boards (Patch chose to exclude the link). Despite the warning, “DO NOT under any circumstances run around hacking into electronic road signs using the information contained in this step-by-step guide …” it then goes on to explain precisely how to do so.
TheHackerNews.com displays a photo of the zombies warning, as does HackADay.com, which, after mentioning how easy it is to change the messages also notes, “We shouldn’t even need to warn you that it is illegal to tamper with these, so unless there really are zombies ahead, you probably shouldn’t mess with it.”
The hacks occur often enough that they occasionally garner media attention, as they did this morning in St. Charles, and as they did last November on a stretch of highway in Loomis, Calif., where wwlp.com posted a video clip of hacks there that included “GORILLA ON THE LOOSE” and “SMOKE WEED EVERYDAY.”
While a quick scan of the results of a simple Google searched early today appeared to show the hacks are intended to be humorous, some are crude — the hack on Route 25 certainly leaned that way. Still, some experts worry about unexpected consequences that could wind up with someone being hurt.
That’s like one of the reasons the tampering is illegal.
- March 28, 2013: Hacker Hits Electronic Roads Signs on Route 25
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