Road traffic signs hacked - Zombies ahead!
caution zombies ahead
the end is near
run for cold climates
The Texas Department of Transportation isn't laughing at the ghoulish warning that appeared on an Austin traffic sign.
Someone altered the digital sign to warn drivers to "run" from the "zombies ahead."
"The end is near!!!!!!!!!" the sign exclaimed. "Caution! Zombies ahead!!!"
"Run for cold climates," the sign instructed motorists.
While some people found it funny, TxDOT says the signs are there to display traffic information.
The department is now trying to figure out who hacked into its digital road sign system.
A quick update on our Monday report about the zombie invasion of Austin: over at the Austin American-Statesman, reporter Katie Petroski is investigating the Nazi zombie invasion story (complete with photos from this blog):
Sign hacker broadcasts zombie warnings
By Katie Petroski | Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 04:10 PM
Someone reprogrammed two city construction road signs near the University of Texas early Monday morning in an attempt to warn Austin of an imminent zombie attack.
Messages that typically alert Lamar Boulevard drivers to a detour for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard splashed several warnings like “Caution! Zombies Ahead!” and “Nazi Zombies! Run!!!”
As he drove south on Lamar, traffic controller Bruce Jones saw the first sign flash the Nazi zombies message at 6 a.m. and wheeled his truck around for another look. Then he said he noticed that the second sign, directed at northbound drivers, had also been tampered with.
Jones, who has one of only two keys to the locked access panels on the portable signs, said that the hacker broke into the panels on each sign and bypassed the passwords before leaving five different zombie messages and even changing one of the passwords. Jones said he had to wait until 8 a.m. to call the manufacturing company to figure out how to override the hacker’s work. He speculated that the hacker could be a computer genius from UT.
The biggest safety hazard came from drivers slowing down or stopping their car to take pictures, Jones said.
The hacking occurred within weeks of various articles appearing online with descriptions of how to hack into these road signs — which point out that such an act is illegal.
Dennis Crabill, project manager with the Public Works Department, said the access panels are always locked and are not programmed with the default passwords these sites suggest. Short of having a watchman on duty around the clock, he said there is little more the city can do to prevent such vandalism.
“It’s a pretty childish prank,” he said.
Crabill said he is optimistic that MLK Boulevard will be open to two-way traffic again by this weekend, and the detour will no longer be necessary.
No zombies have been seen in the area, and with any luck, Tuesday night’s cold front killed off any undead with ghoulish plans to invade the city.
This story appears to have inspired (re)publication of a bunch of how-to stories, like this one, in case you know of another strategically located sign that needs to be put to proper use...
How many times have you driven by an electronic road sign like one of these?
This is the ADDCO portable sign. Today, you see what is on the inside, and how they are programmed to display important information.
*** WARNING YOU SHOULD NEVER TAMPER WITH THESE SIGNS ***
1. The access panel on the sign is generally protected by a small lock, but often are left unprotected. Upon opening the access panel you can see the display electronics.
2. The black control pad is attached by a curly cord, with a keyboard on the face.
3. Programming is as simple as scrolling down the menu selection to “Instant Text”. Type whatever you want to display, Hit Enter to submit. You can now either throw it up on the sign by selecting “Run w/out save” or you can add more pages to it by selecting “Add page”
Austin infects Austen with zombieism?
Be warned, people! The streets of Austin are not the only places you must be on guard lest shambling undead corpses attempt to devour your brains. Now comes word that not even proper British comedy-of-manners novels are safe havens:
Jones, who has one of only two keys to the locked access panels on the portable signs, said that the hacker broke into the panels on each sign and bypassed the passwords before leaving five different zombie messages and even changing one of the passwords. Jones said he had to wait until 8 a.m. to call the manufacturing company to figure out how to override the hacker's work. He speculated that the hacker could be a computer genius from UT. The biggest safety hazard came from drivers slowing down or stopping their car to take pictures, Jones said. The hacking occurred within weeks of various articles appearing online with descriptions of how to hack into these road signs which point out that such an act is illegal. Dennis Crabill, project manager with the Public Works Department, said the access panels are always locked and are not programmed with the default passwords these sites suggest. Short of having a watchman on duty around the clock, he said there is little more the city can do to prevent such vandalism. "It's a pretty childish prank," he said. Crabill said he is optimistic that MLK Boulevard will be open to two-way traffic again by this weekend, and the detour will no longer be necessary. The contractor on the construction project owns the signs. A city spokesperson says the hacked messages were only up for a few hours, until the construction project manager saw them during his morning commute and immediately ordered them to be changed back. "Even thought this may seem amusing to a lot of people, this is really serious and it is a crime and you can be indicted for it and we want to make sure our traffic on the roadways stays safe," said Austin Public Works spokesperson Sara Hartley. "It was a locked sign. There was a padlock that was cut and there is a computer inside those signs that is password protected and so they had to break in and hack into the computer to do it so they were pretty determined." This crime is a class C misdemeanor in Texas and Hartley insists it endangers the public. "This is a first for us. We are new to this kind of thing," said Sara Hartley, Public Works spokesperson. Hartley says whoever did this cut the locks to the computer system and hacked in. "While the content of what it was changed to was amusing to a lot of people we want to make sure that people understand it's a public safety hazard," said Hartley. Since the signs are not city property, it's up to the owner, Texas Sterling Construction, to report the incident to police. We spoke to the company's vice-president who says he will most likely not report it since the damage was so minimal.
Officials were quick to take the hooligans to task. "This is really serious, and it is a crime," Sara Hartley, a spokeswoman for the city Public Works Department, told KXAN. "It's sort of amusing, but not at all helpful," said Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, according to Fox News. The network noted that tampering with road signs is a misdemeanor crime.
AUSTIN, Tex. -- Texas Department of Transportation officials still don't know who hakced into their digital road sign system. State officials say hackers altered signs in Austin earlier this month, warning drivers to run because zombies are ahead. Unfortunately, the zombie apocalypse is coming, and we have a road sign in Austin to thank for the warning. According to this Fox News story, some tricksters hacked into a Texas Department of Transportation road sign on 15th and Lamar in Austin and warned drivers to RUN FOR COLD CLIMATES, ZOMBIES ARE AHEAD.
Transportation officials in Texas are scrambling to prevent hackers from changing messages on digital road signs after one sign in Austin was altered to read, "Zombies Ahead." AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) - Austin drivers making their morning commute were in for a surprise when two road signs on a busy stretch of road were taken over by hackers. The signs near the intersection of Lamar and MLK usually warn drivers about upcoming construction, but Monday morning they warned of' "zombies ahead." Someone reprogrammed two city construction road signs near the University of Texas early Monday morning in an attempt to warn Austin of an imminent zombie attack. As he drove south on Lamar, traffic controller Bruce Jones saw the first sign flash the Nazi zombies message at 6 a.m. and wheeled his truck around for another look. Then he said he noticed that the second sign, directed at northbound drivers, had also been tampered with. Apparently, somebody hacked into a road sign in Austin, Texas and replaced the text to warn drivers that zombies were in the area. Funnier still that they were "Nazi Zombies".
The hackers who did it may know something we don't about the undead. The road signs, which normally warn drivers about traffic conditions, displayed these warnings: " Zombies ahead. the end is near. run for cold climates!" Some signs also warned of Nazi zombies. NBC's Today Show is all over the hacking electronic road signs story, saying officials in Texas are now "scrambling" to protect electronic road signs from the threat of hackers trying to warn us about the hordes of zombies ahead. People of Texas, don't take zombie threats lightly. Each one, no matter how small, must be thoroughly investigated! What if this "hacker" was really just trying to warn you of your impending doom? What if he had just been mauled by a large group of brain-hungry walking dead and this was his last act as one of the living? Texans especially should remember: "A well-regulated zombie defense force, being necessary to keep the security of a state, and the right of the people to blast the heads off of undead scum, shall not be infringed". I saw the signs on Monday and thought they were hilarious Bonus points for being spelled correctly, unlike the current official message on one of the signs which warns of 'triffic' ahead.
Hackers convert road traffic signs into undead alert systems. January 29, 2009 - What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse? Would you head to the local mall with Ving Rhames or team up with a biker, army vet and cute college girl and try to cure the infection one bullet at a time? Well, motorists driving around the University of Texas got to entertain their undead thoughts a little on Monday morning when two electronic road signs flashed alerts of a impeding zombie attack. Chris Lippincott, director of media relations for the Texas Department of Transportation, confirmed that a portable traffic sign at Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street, near the University of Texas at Austin, was hacked into during the early hours of Jan. 19. "It was clever, kind of cute, but not what it was intended for," said Lippincott, who saw the sign during his morning commute. "Those signs are deployed for a reason to improve traffic conditions, let folks know there's a road closure." "It's sort of amusing, but not at all helpful," he told FOXNews.com. Texas Dept. of Transportation officials confirm a portable traffic sign at Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street in Austin was hacked into last week.
Fox News is reporting "that a portable traffic sign at Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street, near the University of Texas at Austin, was hacked into during the early hours of Jan. 19."''
Austin (TX) - On January 19 during early morning traffic, a programmable road sign in Texas was hacked into. For a few hours on Monday morning in Austin, Texas, it seemed as if the world was coming to an end, as two road signs warned of "Nazi zombies!" KXAN has a full report, but apparently doesnt have any gamers on staff, as it completely missed the Call of Duty: World at War reference. In Austin, Texas, a road sign blaring a warning about zombies was blamed on hackers and dismissed as a harmless prank.'' Do you really believe that?'' I know I don'''t.'' Zombies are out there and they'''re going to come sooner, not later. Commuters on the road in Austin were in for an interesting surprise yesterday morning, as hackers took over two road signs and changed the usual traffic-related messages to warn of zombies instead, according to Austin News.
The $15,000 sign was left with the message, "Zombies Ahead", for several hours before officials could summon a crew to fix the sign. According to i-hacked.com, it is not uncommon for these road signs to be left with unlocked external panels, and default firmware passwords. i-hacked stated that, "Programming is as simple as scrolling down the menu selection". You can find the evidence all over the internet. Dustin Coates and Julie Montgomery were among dozens of people who captured road signs flashing, "Caution: zombies ahead, run for cold climates, the end is near!" Signs on both sides of Lamar between MLK and 15th were altered some time Sunday.
Quick, grab the medkits and uzis! The signs, which were in place to alert drivers to a detour, instead contained messages like "Caution! Zombies Ahead" and "Nazi Zombies! Run!!!" for passersby to see. You thought regular zombies were bad, but man, those Nazi zombies are a-holes. Drivers in Austin, Texas, were very relieved when they got the all-clear that there were no more zombies in a construction zone. Because the warning sign said they were just ahead. Most drivers found humor in the prank, but city officials weren't among them. Two city construction road signs near the University of Texas were hacked to display the warnings, reported the Austin American-Statesman. Lippincott said the hacked sign manufactured by IMAGO is owned and operated by the city of Austin. Texas Department of Transportation signs have not been affected, he said. "It is always possible that it could occur, but we attempt to prevent hacking incidents," Lippincott wrote in an e-mail. He declined to comment on security measures to protect the state's signs from hackers. The Texas Department of Transportation isn't laughing at the ghoulish warning that appeared on an Austin traffic sign. The denials are running hot and heavy.'' They begin all the way at the top with Texas Department of Transportation director of public relations Chris Lippincott.'' "It was clever, kind of cute, but not what it was intended for," said Lippincott, who saw the sign during his morning commute. "Those signs are deployed for a reason ''' to improve traffic conditions, let folks know there's a road closure." That'''s exactly what the military wants us to believe.''
Transportation officials in Texas are "scrambling" to stop the " hacking electronic traffic signs " threat. Didn't we tell you not to play with the electronic road signs? This is why we can't have anything nice. The sign is close to the University of Texas at Austin, near Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street, and is likely just a college prank by a bunch of EE students. Transportation officials are scrambling in an attempt to prevent this kind of hack from occurring in the future.
Not surprisingly, the hacking occurred at an intersection within a few blocks of the University of Texas at Austin and right down the street from where we used to live. We shared a room with a Computer Science major capable of just such a prank. Being full of bored college students and undergoing perpetual road construction, Austin is a prime target for this kind of pranksterism. The best part of the video is at the end when the reporter mentions the most disturbing part of the story is the existence of websites explaining how to do this sort of hack. We think the most disturbing part is the people who might attack the transients on The Drag thinking they are zombies as opposed to just stoned. The hacked electronic road sign video from the Today Show was apparently based on the "top story" from Austin NBC-affiliate KXAN proves America also has slow news days, though decidedly more entertaining ones. According to a KXAS-TV story, Austin officials weren't too amused by the warning, noting the signs are used to report road conditions and accidents. They are working to find out who hacked the system.
Over the weekend, Austin, TX drivers received some important warnings from their road signs about the impending zombie invasion. Come on, if you don't already have a Zombie Survival Plan, the warning a road sign can give you is too little, too late.
We told you yesterday not to play with the electronic road signs. We're proud of you guys -- mostly because it's the first time we've seen the zombie meme making it to the mainstream media. The city isn't laughing. Hartley says if it would've been one of their signs, whoever did it would be looking at vandalism and tampering with road sign charges which could mean jail time. "The reason we have those signs out to being with is to assist traffic and the public in being safe when they're out on the road. Austin police are investigating the situation, and the vandals could face a Class C misdemeanor charge of tampering with a road sign, Hartley said. It is the first time Hartley said she has had heard of the stunt.
Tampering with portable road signs is illegal and potentially dangerous to drivers. It is a misdemeanor in Texas, with penalties ranging from fines to potential jail time. While it may seem like a harmless prank, tampering with portable road signs is illegal. It's considered a misdemeanor in Texas, with penalties ranging from fines to potential jail time.
While some people found it funny, TxDOT says the signs are there to display traffic information. The department is now trying to figure out who hacked into its digital road sign system. Not many people are going to jack with the signs, so the incidents are going to be low.'' If they try to complicate the security, they might make things difficult and less efficient for road crews (imagine having to maintain a password list for all the road signs''in your city - they would probably end up writing the password in permanant marker on the inside panel anyway).'' Of course, if someone gets hurt or killed because of this and families sue, then things will change.'' Vandals broke off a lock on the sign in central Austin early Monday and then hacked into the computer to change the words, said Sara Hartley, a city spokeswoman. Austin Public Works spokeswoman Sara Hartley said the incident was not initially reported to police, but will be shortly. "This sign was broken into, it was not just a 'walk up and change the sign' kind of thing," Hartley told FOXNews.com. "This is a new one for us, we've never had it happen before." The person who did it had to cut a padlock and hack into a computer to change the message. "This is really serious, and it is a crime," said Sara Hartley of the public works department.
"The big problem is public safety," said Hartley. "Those signs are out their to help our traffic on the roadway to stay safe and to know what's coming up." Austin News cameras caught many drivers slowing down to read the signs as they approached. Austin, TX appears to be ground zero for the electronic traffic signs hacking threat, as the "top story" on last night's local news demonstrates.
The article quotes a post at i-hacked.com about how to hack the signs (Computerworld, i-hacked, and I''do not condone the illegal hacking of anything, and that''includes street signs) and also quotes''the sign manufacturing company as saying that''the signs are "tamper-resistant and equipped with external locks."'' As the story says, "the signs can be easily altered because their instrument panels are frequently left unlocked and their default passwords are not changed." Now on the surface, this is pretty funny.'' It can be dangerous, but it is still funny.'' There is a reason why some say default passwords are a hacker's best friend. I would argue that our pranksters haven't really done an impressive hack until they've either brute forced a non-default password, or figured out a way to route internet traffic through the signs.
Though Austin officials claim that an act of direst hacking was required to tamper with the signs, sign-hackers say that isn't true. Most of these signs, including the ones owned by Sterling, have a default password. According to the blog i-hacked.com, some commercial road signs, including those manufactured by IMAGO's ADDCO division, can be easily altered because their instrument panels are frequently left unlocked and their default passwords are not changed. ADDCO Chief Operating Officer Brian Nicholson told FOXNews.com that the company is sending out notices to customers on the potentially dangerous security flaw. "It's incumbent upon users to change the default password and secure the sign with a padlock," Nicholson said. "We're having our engineers review this information."
I lamented a while back on my personal blog about default passwords.'' It was inspired by a client who had us doing a security assessment.'' We found a default password on the device that aggregated all of their Internet connections (argh). Now Austin, TX, is feeling the same pain on default passwords, but it is not on anything like their Internet connection.'' No, their problem is with road signs.''
Police in Austin, Texas are looking for some clever hackers. They somehow got into some electronic street signs that were being used for construction warnings. Some hackers in Austin, Texas, decided to warn drivers of something a bit more spooky - zombies. Besides the usual rush hour traffic, commuters in Austin, Texas, Monday also had to deal with reports of an imminent zombie attack.
"Zombies ahead! Run for your lives!" read one altered sign, according to KXAN in Austin. Someone altered the digital sign to warn drivers to "run" from the "zombies ahead."
The information signs in airports are easy targets for hacking remotely too. I don't know why everyone thinks this is funny and doesn't consider for a moment that a kind citizen-or computer genius-may be privy to special insight about a zombie uprising. I sincerely hope the staggering degenerates you see this evening are only drunks from sixth street. City officials speculate that the units were hacked by a local computer expert who broke into the access panels, changed the passwords and then were rerouted the systems to display five different zombie messages. While city officials claimed to FOX News that the tampering could lead to jail time, nobody is going to get in trouble for warning the world about zombies. The city is happy to report that no zombies have since been seen in the area, but did offer up any advice in case next time the warnings turn out to be real: "Shoot 'em in the head".
Abullet in the head will kill a zombie dead. We will need to know this during this dangerous zombie attack. They love to eat the flesh of their victims. Perhaps it was a real warning from Zombies as we were a city that mocked them by having a large "Thriller" zombie video shot in order to break a record. I'm sure the Zombies were miffed by our crappy attempt to mimic them.
I have 38 different strategies for zombie invasion. This hacker is a gamer! The Nazi Zombies are part of a very popular WWII Video Game called Call of Duy World at War. Nazi Zombies is a reference to a game mod found on the Call of Duty 5 video game for the Playstation and Xbox platforms. Anyone who beats the solo game missions is awarded this extra level.
If you finish the game CODWAW a new game is unlocked and is called NAZI ZOMBIES. You kill Nazi Zombies by using different weapons. Wait, let me get this right. They want to find and convict someone on hacking. This is obviously a case of Vandalism. The zombies thing has come about from Call of Duty 5 on xbox. There is a specific level called Nazi Zombies in which the whole goal is to kill the zombies as they attack you. The news won't tell you this yet but i'm sure they will soon.
The Zombie level is unlocked on completion of the game. Nazi Zombies roam and attack you relentlessly, and force you to use teamwork with other online players to defeat them. When zombies really are in the area, we need to be able to take the NAZI zombie threat seriously. To make matters worse, they are NAZI zombies, as you'll see from the video below.
Austin might be full of politician zombies (from the state cemetary for example), but I highly doubt any Nazis are buried around here. That's where zombies come from, right? They rise from their graves. In the meantime, if you're driving in Austin, you can rest assured: There are no zombies ahead.
Some of the websites mention how to alter the message, but don't forget, that's illegal. Am I the only one dismayed that it took the Statesman two days to report this? As trivial as this story isand hilarious!the Statesman's lead-footed response is a microcosm of the problems confronting the mainstream media in today's news marketplace. Thank god I've been stockpiling all these firearms. This is unacceptable behavior. It only desensitizes the public from when there is a real zombie attack. I'''ve seen Return of the Living Dead, I know the story.'' There'''s nothing you can do that will improve traffic conditions more than warning people that there are zombies on the loose, man!'' They have no respect for jaywalking laws or right of way!'' If there are zombies out there, that'''s CRUCIAL information. "Some people find that the content of the sign was amusing but the big problem is public safety. Those signs are out their to help our traffic on the roadway to stay safe," said one driver. Traffic controllers reported that the signs generated substantial safety hazards thanks to drivers slowing down to view the messages and take photos.
Drivers may have gotten a chuckle out of the hacked signs, but city officials are not laughing. The hackers didn't make fixes easy for officials, either. The Dallas Morning News reported that after changing the signs, they changed the passwords, too. There is a computer inside the signs that is password protected. DOT workers said "the hackers had to break in a hack into the computer to do it so they were pretty determined." Construction workers say the signs are usually locked, but the vandals cut through the padlock, and bypassed a password protected computer inside. The pranksters apparently cut the padlocks that guard the computers on each individual sign, the local media reported, and hacked the computer password.
The sign's humorous warning stayed up for several hours before the manufacturer of the computer could reset the password.
Breaking a padlock and bypassing the password to an electronic street sign is a class C misdemeanor in Texas. "I thought it was pretty funny," said University of Texas sophomore Jane Shin, who saw the signs on Lamar Boulevard, in the article. "I thought it was pretty funny," said UT sophomore Jane Shin, who saw the signs while driving down Lamar with friends Sunday night.
Some residents thought it was funny, but officials say the signs are there to display traffic information. The signs have been fixed and officials are searching for those responsible. Officials said the signs are usually locked, but the hackers cut through the padlock. The sign manufacturing company had to be brought in to override the hacker's work.
The hacking occurred within weeks of various articles appearing online with descriptions of how to hack into these road signs -- which point out that such an act is illegal. What do you expect from people who deploy road signs?'' I am not saying road crews are stupid.'' I am saying that they are not thinking that someone is going to hack their signs.'' That is just not their main focus.'' So''will the sign manufacturers do anything to make them more secure?'' Probably not.'' This is simply''a low risk problem.''
Google the words "dots" "message" "sign" and "zombies" for more examples of people modifying the messages. "We wondered who did it." The city of Austin does not own the signs, but they are responsible for the message. Before leaving, the vandals reset the password so the city could not easily change the sign. I really hope they go light on these hackers, just think how much laughter it brought to people who really needed a laugh. The best part of the story though is they were smart enough to change the password when they were done. This really is made my day.
Hacker, whoever you are, I think I love you. This sounds like a job for Roky Erickson. I will not feel safe until Roky emerges and wipes these Zombies from the face of this earth.
Hacking state computers is a class C misdemeanor in Texas. The city says it will consult with the manufacturer to make something like this more difficult in the future. Hartley says the city will discuss more secure safety measures with the manufacturer of the signs. When you change a sign you're actually endangering the public on the roadway," said Hartley.
Texas transportation officials are baffled by a recent science fiction inspired vandal, who was apparently able to hack into a mobile road-sign. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on. This is how a serious threat to humanity gets laughed off? Australia has just seen a resurgence of zombies as a result of the cover-up in Hastings. To this day Hastings locals still claim to know nothing about the 1968 outbreak, during which over a thousand died and special operations brought in choppers to drive the zombies onto French Island, and Catholic priests to bless the water surrounding the island, isolating the threat. Forty years later they resurfaced and stumbled the inner city streets of Melbourne.