Normally, when we talk about companies and institutions looking to silence security researchers and their ilk who have tried to expose potential threats, the story ends without tragedy. United Airlines, for instance, went on the attack on Chris Roberts, who may well be an idiot, for exposing in-flight WiFi security concerns. CyberLock decides to go legal on a researcher who had been trying desperately to contact them about a security flaw in a number of its electronic locks. Johns Hopkins, meanwhile, ordered the disappearing of a blog post detailing how its own servers might be compromised by the NSA (or used with permission) to defeat encryption schemes.
But in all of those cases, even if some shenanigans were had, there was no real damage done as a result of ignoring the security advice that those organizations subsequently attempted to silence. So, what is the consequence of ignoring that device? Well, as it turns out, the consequence is anus. Very, very, tragically, unfortunately infamous anus.
The affluent denizens of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood received a fun treat this week when they looked up at the corner of Peachtree and East Paces Ferry: a famous internet man’s giant, ruddy, gaping spread asshole, displayed on an enormous digital billboard.
The billboard above [Techdirt editor: which I'm not posting, because obviously I'm not] is one of the thousands of YESCO digital billboards installed across the country. Naturally, it comes with an internet connection. The setup is exactly as insecure as you’d imagine: many of these electronic billboards are completely unprotected, dangling on the public internet without a password or any kind of firewall. This means it’s pretty simple to change the image displayed from a new AT&T offer to, say, Goatse.
Great, so because whoever is in charge of managing that electronic billboard couldn’t be bothered to take the advice any competent technology person who came across the setup, of which there must have been at least one, the great people of Atlanta were treated to one of the most disgusting images in human existence. I’m generally loathe to blame the victim, but the owner of a public-facing billboard must have some culpability when it comes to securing their display. And I say that there was at least one person who warned them about this, because at least one has come forward publicly.
Not only was this a case of incompetence, but gross negligence: security researcher Dan Tentler tweeted yesterday that he’d tried to warn this very same sign company that their software is easily penetrable by anyone with a computer and net connection and was told they were “not interested.” Even after the billboard was defaced, Tentler said the company still hadn’t secured its software.
Probably best to just sick the lawyers on Dan. After all, this all must be his fault, somehow.