Advertisers using a digital billboard on U.S. Route 441 in Florida got a bit more press than expected when hackers hijacked the ads and changed them to include bizarre and provocative messages. Local news outlet WTSP was informed of the changes after an eagle-eyed driver spotted the unusual ads on Christmas Day.
One restaurant promoting a dog-friendly patio had a picture of a corgi declaring “Satan is the one true God.” Another featured a Gorilla declaring it had been “a very naughty boy.” A third seemed to mock less than savvy internet users, reading “Where do I buy milk. Where to buy milk. Place to buy milk.”
And in what should be apparent after reading this article, another modified ad proclaimed “These people think connecting a billboard to the internet is a good idea. These people are wrong.”
According to WTSP, Facebook user Markelle Maddock made a U-turn after noticing the gorilla advertisement, circling back to capture more of the hacked billboard messages to share on social media. As far as she’s concerned, it’s all a bit of silly fun.
— 10News WTSP (@10NewsWTSP) December 26, 2018
“I understand where people could get offended, especially with the ‘Satan is the one true god,’ but it made for a good laugh and I’ll always remember it,” she said.
“I thought it gave a comedic relief for such a stressful time of the year.”
The changes were clearly the work of a hacker group that went so far as to publicize their Twitter handle in one of the fake advertisements. But Patheos reached out to Satanic Temple leader Lucien Greaves for comment on the surrounding controversy.
“It’s impossible not to be greatly amused at the idea of a happy corgi praising Satan on a billboard causing a frenzied outrage,” Greaves wrote before noting billboards are often used to carry controversial messages from other religions. “Surely, the only lesson to be gained here is the one related to internet security.”
The extent of society’s vulnerability to hacking has become increasingly apparent over the past few years as major security breaches continue to make headlines around the world. As the Inquistr reported, even credit tracking companies like Equifax have been unable to protect customer information. And as more and more electronic devices are connected to the internet, poor security has opened the world up to a number of unforeseen issues. Inquisitr also notes that the ‘Mirai Botnet’ that took down parts of the internet in a 2017 attack was made up of routers, cameras, and even fridges.
With more essential public services being connected to the internet in a variety of ways, the digital defacement of billboards seems like a relatively minor and amusing incident in the face of a much larger problem.