Hackers program highway sign with Zombie warning

Hackers program highway sign with Zombie warning

Summary: In a true "sign of the times", so to speak, someone reprogrammed an electric highway sign to warn motorists of impending zombies. Here are the photos.

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Here's a lighthearted failure suitable for Friday afternoon.

In a true "sign of the times", so to speak, someone reprogrammed an electric highway sign to warn motorists of impending zombies:

CAUTION ZOMBIES AHEAD!!!

THE END IS NEAR!!!!!!!!!

RUN FOR COLD CLIMATES

Here are the photos:

Update 1/30/09: The screens are manufactured by Imago. Looks like the signs run proprietary software and operating system.

These machines are programmed by a keypad located inside a compartment that can be locked. If the compartment isn't locked, thereby giving physical access to the keyboard, anyone can get inside. Although the manufacturer assigns a default password to every unit, many owners don't bother changing it. Therefore, reprogramming can be a simple matter of opening the unlocked unit, entering the default password, and typing a new display message.

In a sense, this can hardly be called a hack. It's really physical intrusion and takeover without any special feat of programming skill.

[Via fellow ZDNet blogger Adam O'Donnell. Photos from Dallas News video.]

Topics: Networking, Operating Systems, Security

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15 comments
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  • Funny, but dangerous

    I can see (and appreciate) the humor in it, but tampering with highway signs like that can be dangerous. If someone is not warned of upcoming construction or hazards, it could easily lead to accidents. It's a shame to see obviously intelligent people misusing their talents and not considering the consequences of their actions.

    Carl Rapson
    rapson
    • Absolutely right

      It's worth noting the sign company decided not to press charges in case the hacker is caught. It's funny, but only to a point.

      Thanks for pointing that out.
      mkrigsman
    • A lot less dangerous than it could've been

      Any danger was a side effect. What if someone malicious decided to get a hold of this?

      You could send people the wrong way down a one way street for example. I'd much rather see someone make an example with these zombie messages than something like that.
      rpmyers1
  • Windows !!!

    Welcome to Windows land!
    Christian_<><
    • Windows?

      Electronic highway signs run Windows?

      Carl Rapson
      rapson
    • Not Windows

      Read the post update for a link to the manufacturer.
      mkrigsman
    • Heavens! It's just a sign!

      It's just a display. What kind of complex OS do you need for heaven sake?

      You need to input alpha numeric text. You may have the option to flash the sign (alternate between display and blank) at some presets. You might also have some option for ticker tape scroll (e.g. Time Square).

      I wouldn't want more than that for a simple hazaard sign.
      elizab
    • So what's SCADA?

      are you saying that truthfully this was Windows, a Microsoft product, or that you're looking out Windows into the street and you capitalized the W two times due to some school error? What statement are you allegedly making?
      Boot_Agnostic
  • Thank goodness the prank wasn't deadly

    so where is the link to the maker and OS used, so to keep it straight and open.
    Boot_Agnostic
    • I updated the post

      To include a link to the manufacturer. It seems to be a proprietary OS.
      mkrigsman
      • Oopsie

        Oopsie, looks like the Windows bashers made another booboo.

        Poopypants. There, I said it...
        Qbt
      • Thank you for the update (nt)

        nt
        Boot_Agnostic
  • RE: Hackers program highway sign with Zombie warning

    obviously software makers could care less about computer security. to them, security is just a nuisance.

    to the rest of us the lack of computer security is un-acceptable. as software makers will not take this issue seriously it is time for government regulation

    just like when you was a kid: if you didn't clean up your room your Dad did it for you, -- with un-pleasant results.

    hopefully the Oblahma admin. will deal with this for us, simply making software makers liable for damages resulting from hackerized software.
    mike acker
  • RE: Hackers program highway sign with Zombie warning

    Give us a break - the sign was next to a very visible work area. It's the usual case of college students having a prank, in this case with a self-limiting scope. And the company recognizes this obviously.
    rpolunsky
  • RE: Hackers program highway sign with Zombie warning

    Social engineering is the most used way of hacking.
    mike.reys