AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin drivers making their morning commute were in for asurprise when two road signs on a busy stretch of road were takenover by hackers. The signs near the intersection of Lamarand Martin Luther King boulevards usually warn drivers aboutupcoming construction, but Monday morning they warned of "zombies ahead."
"I thought it was pretty funny," said University ofTexas sophomore Jane Shin, who saw the signs while driving downLamar Bouelvard with friends Sunday night. "We wondered who didit."
The City ofAustin does not own the signs, but they are responsible for themessage. The contractor on the construction project owns the signs.A city spokesperson said the hacked messages were only up for a fewhours, until the construction project manager saw them during hismorning commute and immediately ordered them to be changedback.
"Even though this may seem amusing to a lot of people, this isreally serious, and it is a crime," said Austin PublicWorks spokesperson Sara Hartley. "And you can be indicted forit, and we want to make sure our traffic on the roadways stayssafe."
Hartley said though it was a locked sign, the padlock for it wascut. Signs such as these have a computer inside that ispassword-protected.
"And so they had to break in and hack into the computer to doit, so they were pretty determined," said Hartley.
This crime is a class C misdemeanor in Texas, and Hartley saidit endangers the public.
"The big problem is public safety," said Hartley. "Those signsare out there to help our traffic on the roadway to stay safe andto know what's coming up."
KXAN Austin Newscameras caught many drivers slowing down to read the signs as theyapproached. Some read, "Zombies ahead! Run for your lives!"
Hartley said the city will discuss more secure safety measureswith the manufacturer of the signs.
Speculation among the tech-savvy on the Internet is that thesigns were inspired by the video game Call of Duty 5, World at War, which is the topgame in the country right now and features "nazi zombies," or anupcoming movie about zombies called "Dead Snow" (an official selection atSundance '09). There are also several online sites that teachpeople how to break into these construction signs.
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