Most embarrassing hacks in cyber history

Most embarrassing hacks in cyber history

As we move further into the digital age, cyber attacks are becoming more daring and sophisticated. We take a look back at some good old-fashioned hacks.

The gentleman hacker of 1903

Nevil Maskelyne, magician, circa 1903. Image credit: Wikimedia.

For what is perhaps history’s first hack, we have to go way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor who pioneered the radio, was in the middle of a large public demonstration of the wireless telegraph.

While attempting to transmit a message in front of an audience of academics and officials, Marconi’s receiver began to tap out one word over and over in morse code: “rats”. Just as he realised what was happening, the receiver began to type out a poem: “There was a young fellow of Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily”.

The mastermind behind the hack was moustachioed magician Nevil Maskelyne. The OG troll had been put up to the task by a wired telegraph company, who worried that the wireless technology would threaten their business, and were determined to expose any flaws they could find.

AC/DC in a nuclear powerplant

Hackers played AC/DC’s Thunderstruck in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Image credit: Pixabay.

Okay, this one sounds like a deleted scene from Ironman, but we promise, it actually happened. In 2012, two of Iran’s nuclear facilities, Natanz and Fordo, were infiltrated by a very mischievous worm.

The worm caused havoc by shutting down various systems at the nuclear power plants, but it makes this list because of its cheeky secondary function. From time to time, in the middle of the night, AC/DC’s Thunderstruck could be heard blasting out from every workstation at full volume.

While we don’t know for sure who is behind this one, rumour has it that coders from the US and Israeli governments were behind the rock n’ roll.

Burger King’s Twitter gets a makeover

“Just got sold to McDonald’s because the whopper flopped,” declared Burger King’s hacked Twitter account. Image credit: Wikimedia

Perhaps you’ve left a computer logged into your Facebook, or maybe you’ve given your Instagram password out to a friend. Burger King, unfortunately, had their Twitter password straight up hacked back in 2013.

The hack (which has been claimed by various groups, including Anonymous and LulzSec) saw Burger King release a series of tweets claiming they had been bought out by McDonald’s. They also had their account name and photo to match their rivals. Burger King was able to use their corporate leverage to suspend their account a few hours later by contacting Twitter directly.

Godzilla road sign

A hacked San Francisco traffic sign warns of a Godzilla Attack. Image credit: Fred Warner, Berkeleyside.

The Internet of Things is the rapidly growing network of computers, phones, electronics, sensors, vehicles and more that are increasingly connected to the web. While every device being connected and sharing data offers a lot of convenience, it also means an increased risk of cybercrime.

In 2014, a group of hackers tapped into a roadworks sign connected to the internet. Fresh off the hype of the Godzilla movie, the pranksters reprogrammed the sign to read “GODZILLA ATTACK – TURN BACK!”

Paul Indelicato, the boss of Pacific Highway Rentals who owned the sign, said he had no idea how the hackers had managed to infiltrate the system, and expressed relief that they were “just having a bit of fun”.

Hollywood’s ultimate ‘hack’

So it’s not a real hack, but we couldn’t leave out Hollywood’s ridiculous representation of hacking that appears throughout so many different films and TV shows. And what better example of this than this cringe scene from NCIS?

Originally airing in 2004, when the showrunners might have been able to get away with this sort of nonsense, the scene features a few of the NCIS team responding to a “hack” happening right in front of them. From the horrible computer jargon to the infamous two-people-on-the-same-keyboard, the entire clip has not aged well.

Luckily, good old Gibbs had the “common sense” to solve everything by pulling the plug.

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This article first appeared on Techly.