Channel 19

Todd Dills

Monster mash

| January 30, 2009

Considering that a majority of truckers polled recently at eTrucker.com think space aliens may have visited sections of U.S. highway, it’s easy to imagine that a few drivers in big rigs may have felt an energy rush Monday morning when they and other motorists along Lamar Boulevard in Austin, Texas, slowed down after seeing digital roadsigns that warned, “>Zombies in area! Run.”

Instead of running, law enforcement and Texas Department of Transportation officials were hunting the pranksters who broke into two portable traffic signs’ computers, hacked the passwords and replaced daily weather and street reports — with those heralding a monster mash.

Sara Hartley, Austin public works department spokeswoman, reportedly told KXAN that “>This is really serious, and it is a crime.” According to Fox News, Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said that the incident was “sort of amusing but not at all helpful.” In Texas, tampering with road signs is a misdemeanor crime.

The Austin-American Statesman reported that the hackers apparently cut the padlocks that guard the computers on each sign and hacked the computer password. The new signs went up Monday morning.

Since no actual zombies were sighted nor accidents incurred, running was not necessary. But perhaps patience would have helped city officials and commercial drivers while the manufacturer worked for a few hours, reported the Dallas Morning News, to install a new password in hopes, Overdrive staff surmises, of it serving like a silver cross to keep zombies’ — or any other monster’s — tamperings with the signs at bay. –Lucinda Coulter

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