Techies alter sign on Palmetto
By BRIAN HAMACHER and CAROLYN RYAN
Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Tue, May 25, 2010
Electronic road sign hackers generally like to warn motorists of zombie and raptor attacks, but in South Florida, the signs are apparently being used to fuel the immigration debate.
A highway sign flashing "NO LATINOS NO TACOS" greeted drivers on the Palmetto Expressway in Northwest Miami-Dade, after hackers managed to alter it early Tuesday morning.
The sign was in the northbound side of the 826, right near the Northwest 25th street exit.
It's unknown how long the sign had been flashing the message, but by 6 a.m., members of the Florida Highway Patrol and a road crew had turned the sign away from the highway and were working to erase the message.
Officials said the signs are password protected, but that generally does little to stop hackers intent on changing them.
Last year, a string of road sign hacks were made in three separate states.
In Austin, Texas, a sign cautioned drivers to the "ZOMBIES IN AREA! RUN." Another in Collinsville, Illinois said "Daily LANE CLOSURES DUE TO ZOMBIES." And another in rural Indiana read "RAPTORS AHEAD - CAUTION."
Reaction to the sign, posted on the "Today in South Florida" Facebook page was mixed.
"Wow someone has a lot of time on their hands to think up of how they can belittle and disrespect a group of people who help keep this country going," said Luly Cueto-Belot.
"Greatest thing I ever saw...let's take this country back dammit!!!..south will rise again mother---er!!" said David Pines.
The sign is owned by a company called, Highway Technologies, based out of Illinois. Gil Joseph, a spokesman for the company told NBC Miami that it is using all its resources to investigate how the sign was tampered with and who is beind it. "The hacked message was offensive and vandalistic. We had nothing to do with the message and we find the message both appalling and discriminatory," said Joseph.
Highway Technologies is renting the digital roadway sign to a construction company that is working on a nearby project.
Joseph says they have filed a police report for vandalism of the company's electronic sign.