It looks like a copycat crime hit Lubbock Friday morning. Hackers changed an Austin digital traffic sign to read "Zombies Ahead" last month. Now, pranksters have a different message for Lubbock residents.
Digital traffic signs warn you about icy road conditions, construction, alternate routes, and... the British? Lubbock's own Paul Revere changed a sign at the Loop and Spur 327 to read "OMG the British are coming." Then flash to say, "They are watching you." The sign originally read "Frankford, exit next right."
Several motorists like Javier Castaneda pass by the sign every day and found the warning humorous. "I think it would probably wake some people up. Get them wondering where the heck they're going. If anything it's original. I think it's pretty harmless for the most part," he said.
It may make you laugh, but the Texas Department of Transportation says changing a traffic sign is a serious offense. "It's serious because they do display important information. It's almost the same thing as removing a stop sign," said Dianah Ascencio of TxDOT.
TxDOT says this could be a third degree felony, for which the punishment is two to ten years of imprisonment or up to a $10,000 fine.
The sign is owned by Austin Bridge and Road and contracted to the Department of Transportation. The box that contained the hardware to program the sign was left unlocked, but the hacker still had to figure out how to get past a password security code. "We do feel like maybe somebody may have had some inside information as to how to manipulate the message board," says Ascencio.
Austin Bridge and Road removed the sign as soon as they heard of the problem around 7 a.m. Friday morning, and added locks to their signs to discourage pranksters. TxDOT takes the sign switch-up seriously and says they will try to prevent it from happening again. So pranksters beware, "They are watching you."
TxDOT put up permanent signs yesterday to tell motorists where the Frankford Exit is, so they removed the portable sign this morning and don't plan to put it back. No one NewsChannel 11 talked to had any idea who the culprit might be.