“Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard!!” an electronic road sign was informing motorists around Dallas as of Tuesday.
“I’m not sure this is what @TxDOT meant for this road sign to say…” tweeted Tim Ciesco, a morning reporter for NBC 5.
— Tim Ciesco (@TimCiescoNBC5) May 31, 2016
Yea, that’s probably not what it was supposed to say. The portable signs more typically display messages to inform drivers that an exit’s closed, or that there’s construction work ahead, rather than stating that US presidential hopefuls are chameleons.
NBCDFW heard from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that 3 electronic signs, all in western Dallas, were tampered with over the weekend.
One sign read “Bernie for President.” A third sign eschewed politics and told people that “Work Is Canceled – Go Back Home”.
The signs reportedly belonged to a contractor who’d been doing work along Interstate 30. As far as the TxDOT knew as of Tuesday, the signs had been turned off and locked up over the 3-day holiday weekend.
TxDOT workers began turning the compromised signs off shortly before 6 am.
Ryan LaFontaine, a spokesman for the TxDOT, said that the signs can’t be tampered with remotely. You have to get in to the control panel to manually mess with the messages:
You have to actually be there. Power it up and get in there and break the password.
Let’s assume he meant “guess at” the password. If nobody’s bothered to change a default password, or if the password were helpfully scribbled nearby, whoever fiddled with the signs’ controls probably didn’t have to stand out there sweating in the Texas sun for very long.
Heck, for all we know, it could have been done in a minute: another recent news item was that a North Korean clone of Facebook was “hacked” almost immediately after it went up…
…a feat accomplished in no time by Andrew McKean, an 18-year-old college student from Scotland who guessed at the password, which administrators had forgotten to change from the default…
…which was “password.” The admin name was “admin.”
At any rate, the three Dallas road signs aren’t the first to attract mischievous tinkerers.
And while there may be many out there who’ll be amused at the image of a reptilian Donald Trump, LaFontaine pointed out that messing with these signs constitutes a serious crime:
Any sort of tampering with that sort of stuff is a third-degree felony and it’s punishable. We’re talking prison time. It’s not something that’s taken lightly be any means.