COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Pranksters in at least three states are messing with electronic road signs meant to warn motorists of possible traffic problems by putting drivers on notice about zombies and raptors. Highway officials aren’t amused.
The latest breach came Tuesday morning near the St. Louis suburb of Collinsville, Ill., where hackers changed a sign on southbound Interstate 255 to read, “Daily Lane Closures Due To Zombies.”
A day earlier in Indiana’s Hamilton County, the electronic message in a construction zone warned drivers of “Raptors Ahead — Caution.”
The incidents follow one in Austin on Jan. 26 in which a sign on Lamar Boulevard was reprogrammed to flash: “Nazi Zombies! Run!!!” and “Caution! Zombies! Ahead!!!”
Officials in Illinois say they are concerned the signs distract motorists from heeding legitimate hazards down the road. The hacked sign Tuesday had warned drivers of crews replacing guardrails.
Some Web sites, such as Jalopnik.com, have published tutorials on “How to Hack an Electronic Road Sign,” reputedly as a way to alert traffic safety officials to security holes. Jalopnik urges its readers not to put the lesson to practice.
“Hacking generally is about showing where there are holes in security systems, and I think this is a great example of that,” said the site’s editor-in-chief, Ray Wert. “We’re trying to make clear this is an issue that needs to be confronted by traffic safety and transportation officials.”