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Development & Transportation

Precautions In Place To Protect Electronic Roadside Signs, PennDOT Says

PennDOT says it has taken precautions to protect electronic roadside signs from pranksters seeking to change the message.

Numerous sign hacks have appeared across the country for years, drawing attention to security shortcomings.

But a spokeswoman for PennDOT says the state’s electronic signs and highway advisory radios are protected with passwords as well as physical locking systems.

Chuck Davis, who teaches ethical hacking and computer forensics at Harrisburg University, said that’s probably adequate.

"It’s very simple to change the sign unless there’s a padlock on the back," he said. "So I would say that from a protection standpoint, putting the password on here is a good idea, but since that can be circumvented, also putting a padlock and otherwise physically securing the keyboard is probably the best mode of protection."

Last week, the message on an electronic sign in San Francisco was changed to read “Godzilla attack!” and “Turn back.”

It wasn’t the intended signal for the provider of the signs, as one area paper reported.

Years ago, step-by-step instruction on how to hack the electronic signs are online, drawing attention to security holes.