Hackers vulgar in road message

A 12-letter obscenity appeared Thursday night and into Friday morning on this sign aimed at drivers traveling east on U.S. Highway 6&50 west of Mesa Mall. The Colorado Department of Transportation filed a police report on the incident. The Sentinel digitally altered the photo to blur the vulgarity.

Hackers who began posting innocuous messages on variable message boards at Grand Junction road projects now could be looking at criminal penalties.

The Colorado Department of Transportation filed a police report in connection with the hacking of one sign aimed at drivers traveling east on U.S. Highway 6&50 west of Mesa Mall.

The hacker included a vulgar, 12-letter obscenity to demand on the sign that English be spoken. The message appeared on the sign Thursday night and into Friday morning.

Thursday was Cinco de Mayo, when Mexico celebrates the expulsion of the French from that country in 1862.

The mixture of the vulgar and political marked a sharp change in the message that hackers put on the road signs, spokeswomen for the Transportation Department and Grand Junction said.

Previous hacked messages tended to be bland or even humorous, such as offering congratulations to graduates or homages to construction workers such as: “I’m too sexy for my shirt.”

“The first few were relatively humorous,” said Kristin Winn, spokeswoman for the Grand Junction Public Works Department. “I’m very sorry to hear it’s taken a turn to the nasty. I feel bad for drivers driving by. That’s more shock value than they need.”

Most likely, the hacker had to stop at the sign and input the messages by hand.

“It’s safe to say that, given the technology, it is highly unlikely that this hacking was done remotely,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. “Someone would have done this ‘work’ on-site.”

The hacker or hackers might be in for a surprise themselves if authorities can identify them.

A report was filed with the Colorado State Patrol, Shanks said.


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