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Watch Dogs game inspires spate of roadside hacks

In another worrying security breach of critical infrastructure, several US states are reporting the hacking of electronic road signs across the country.

This week, multiple road signs in North Carolina were altered to read "Hack by Sun Hacker," while similar incidents were reported last month in other areas. While the latest security breach left no long-term damage, it does raise concerns about the suspected ease with which the attack took place.

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According to a report by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (MS-ISAC), the hack could have occurred due to security lapses by those in charge of sign maintenance.

"Investigators in one state believe the compromise may be in part due to the use of weak Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) community strings. Investigators in another state believe the malicious actor used Telnet port 23 and a simple password cracker to gain remote access. In one state the malicious actor changed the modem passwords, forcing technicians to restore to factory default settings to regain access."

The report also suggests that the breach "likely coincides with the May 27, 2014 release of the video game, Watch Dogs."

It continued, "On May 27, 2014, the malicious actor posted an image of the game on his Twitter feed, demonstrating his interest in the game, and the compromise of road signs occurs during game play. CIS believes it is likely that a small percentage of Watch Dog players will experiment with compromising computers and electronic systems outside of game play."

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While the above report is likely to fuel more accusations of video game scaremongering, the relative ease with which the motorway infrastructure was hacked suggests that security measures will need to be re-assessed to prevent more serious problems occurring in the future.