HOW TO – Hack construction signs

HOW TO – Hack construction signs


Via Neatorama, how to hack into construction signs:

It will ask you for a password. Try “DOTS”, the default password. In all likelihood, the crew will not have changed it. However if they did, never fear. Hold “Control” and “Shift” and while holding, enter “DIPY”. This will reset the sign and reset the password to “DOTS” in the process. You’re in!

64 thoughts on “HOW TO – Hack construction signs

  1. Gilberti says:

    Useful in the event of an apocalyptic scenario in which I want to alert passers-by to the location of a safe house or some such. Unfortunately, that is where the usefulness ends.

    We are once again confronted with the fine line between art/harmless prank and vandalism.

  2. jammit says:

    It’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know.

  3. Jason says:

    Cool. I think I’ll post “road out ahead” or WARNING: MASSIVE POTHOLE on the interstate and sit back with a video camera. Should be hilarious.

    I wonder if MAKE will post the carnage video if I call it “edgy anti establishment art”?

    I wonder how they’d feel if it was their infant daughter that died in the wreck.

    Seriously, folks. This isn’t funny any more.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This was in 2600 several years ago.

  5. Sam says:

    No gloom and doom scenarios, please… These signs aren’t used in situations where you might need to slam your brakes on, so a silly message isn’t likely to cause such responses. Typically they are used for future announcements, such as “Road closures 10-2 through 10-8”, or general announcements “Watch for ice”. I’ve never seen one that says, “Stop now, bridge out!!!!!” because they wouldn’t use a text-only sign to redirect traffic like that, so no one would react that way.

    Just the other day I saw one of the signs in my area that said “2/1, toll increase, $3 to $3.50”. I wanted to change it to “New toll, one hug.” and now I can! Not going to kill any infant girls, thankfully.

    Lighten up a bit, and go warn someone about zombies.

  6. b says:

    I noticed one the other day that said “don’t drink and drive”. Seems like a waste of tax dollars to put a sign up that isn’t going to do any good. If I had no fear I would be changing it tonight.

  7. Meltz says:

    At least add an “e” in the word “drive” so it reads “don’t drink and derive”

  8. MrCrumley says:

    Funny as the photo is, THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. Sam’s argument that these signs aren’t used for emergencies is short-sighted. Jason’s point was that even if the road ahead is fine, it’s possible that SOME messages could influence SOME drivers into making errors in judgment – with tragic consequences.

    We should be responsible Makers/ Hackers. Devices that are in place to keep us safe should be off limits.

  9. mracp says:

    I don’t lighten up when there’s a possibility of someone getting hurt or dying as a result of a stupid prank, regardless of your feeble attempt to pretty it up.

    Unfortunately, strange things happen in this world, so why encourage it, especially at the risk of a life?
    Use your head, instead of your smart mouth.

  10. Chris says:

    I am glad to see that Make magazine has branched out into helping people Make Trouble.

    Not. This was also on Hackaday first which was a much more appropriate forum for this. Seriously I agree with the last 2 people. Hopefully readers of Make are smart enough and have good common sense not to do this.

    Please trust me when I say that smart people that are bored WILL do something stupid.

    How about posting more things that will kill the boredom but not be so stupid.

  11. HOW TO – Hack construction signs Becky Stern says:

    My apologies, I thought part of our job here at MAKE was to prepare folks for the zombie-pocalypse, at which point programming manuals for these signs won’t be easily accessible in the short time before the power grid goes out. Heck, some of them are even solar powered! Seriously, though, don’t use this skill to create a hazard.

  12. Perry Jones says:

    Other posters are right, this shouldn’t be used to create a hazard. I’d also like to remind readers that you can never underestimate the stupidity of drivers.

    However, it’s still good to get this information out. If it isn’t publicized, why would DOT upgrade their security setup? Someone has to shame them out of using default passwords.

  13. Jack of Most Trades. says:

    The only one of these I would feel good hacking is the one the local mega-church rents every year to call attention to their over-blown drive-thru “living nativity” every year. It’s kinda misleading, the sign says “EXPECT DELAYS” then goes into the spiel of dates and times for The Big Shew.
    S’Yeah, delays. Even after they lobbied the state to widen the state road JUST up to the entrance to McReligionLand…

  14. anonimouse says:

    I do see these signs used as advertisements, which I think is a bigger misuse of the medium than warning of zombies. If I expect some important message about the safety of the road, then get some sales pitch for an upcoming RV show the general population will be in greater danger as the next time I see one of these I am less likely to pay attention, now if the ad is replaced with something clever, then maybe next time I’ll look.

    2 cents.

  15. nap70 says:

    Make, wtf? The least you could have done would have been to point out that changing those highway signs is illegal.

  16. ridot says:

    Saying that altering these signs will cause deaths is EXACTLY the same argument that has been used against people who alter Billboards. “People will be distracted and kill each other” is BULLSHIT. The SAME argument was used to arrest people with LED throwies!!!

    There is more danger in trying to eat a Wendy’s Frosty in your car than anything someone could do to alter the text of these signs.

    Also here in Rhode Island on 146 there has been on of these signs on the side of the road for FIVE YEARS and It isn’t even on. It just sits there blank and dark.

  17. anonymous says:

    I just want to point out to those posters who think this is a funny hack, IT IS NOT UP TO YOU to decide what is or is not an important safety warning. You do not have that right.
    For those who argue that this information is important to point out security flaws, do you similarly lament the lack of security in traffic cones. They aren’t bolted down or anything, but instead rely on people being civilized enough not to screw with them. I guess DOT figures the lock that any would be vandal would have to use a bolt cutter on to get to the construction sign innards would be deterrent enough.
    It is stupid to ignore your own safety when hacking, it is criminal to ignore the safety of others.

  18. timmaah says:

    I f’n hate these signs…

    I live up in Vermont and we have a very nice billboard/signage law that keeps the scenery uncluttered with ads and the like.

    But our transportation department must have gotten a good deal on these things and think they are above the law. They are everywhere this winter. 8 or so on the interstate to warn us that its snowing. Not to mention the ones on the side roads that spew crap like:

    New Years Resolution – Obey the speed limit
    The best gift is a sober driver
    341 DUI arrests – who is next
    Road closed at summit (after 2 normal signs)

    I’ve complained.. but they tell me to go to my town council.

    I say hack away…

  19. splint says:

    Just so you know, potato guns are illegal in my area yet no one seems to object to the plethora of information on MAKE on how to construct one of those, nor should they.

  20. Jetlag says:

    Illegal or not, when the zombies eat your brains you’ll wish someone had warned you.

  21. Andy L says:

    Thank god the Morality Police showed up!

    If not for the tireless efforts of certain commenters I would not have realized that intentionally causing traffic accidents by tampering with government property was a bad idea. THANK YOU MORALITY POLICE!

    Seriously, people, just because it says “HOW TO” doesn’t mean that it’s urging everyone to go do it. It’s OK to have general interest articles. I, personally, found it interesting to know how these things are used, and how easy they are to tamper with. The fact that I, personally, have no intentions of messing with them didn’t make it any less interesting. (Frankly, I was disappointed at how short the article was. I would have liked a more in-depth look.)

    One of the things that makes MAKE unique, is that it doesn’t go overboard with disclaimers, self-censorship, or general reader-babying.

  22. mracp says:

    Who accused anyone of urging everyone to go and do this? No one that I can see.

    Use your Make minds responsibly. Anyone who reads the local and state accident reports occasionally knows how often these type accidents happen. It’s way too often. ONCE is one too many when it’s on account of a stupid prank like this.

    Anyone who supports this type prank has a serious problem; therefore, is a PART of the problem that frequently shows up in newspaper articles. So get off your high horse, shed your ego and stupidity, and show Make what you can do without adding to the concern of world idiocy.

  23. craig says:

    Really! you don’t see a problem with this… people stopping & getting out of their cars at night, or running down onto the expressways at night to mess with these signs. The ‘go green’ people talk about the difference we make COLLECTIVELY… Hmm, imagine the collective efforts of people across the country messing with these signs and the manhours put in to correct, keep correcting, and eventually locking them out… more waste. But I guess on a bright note, a smile here & there is worth all that time, expense, traffic foul-ups and perhaps a death. Whee! By the way, isn’t there a hack-it/own-it rule that MAKE lives by?

  24. Forensic Engineer says:

    OK, I’m coming in late – not sure if anyone will actually read this. I saw this before on Hack-a-Day and thought it was a little clever I’ll admit. I can imagine some folks trying it as a prank, hopefully in a non-emergency location.

    Just a quick comment though for some who claim they’re NEVER used for emergency purposes. I’ve worked on several cases where lack of sings before construction zones have resulted in multiple deaths. And yes in one case there was a Variable Message Sign (VMS) that wasn’t working and appears to have resulted in a car doing 65 into a line of stopped vehicles killing a mother of three children.

    Signs are used to warn motorists of road hazards and it’s when driver’s aren’t expecting the hazard that is generally the problem.

    Now I’m not saying if you change one in front of a store a 5 car pileup will definitely occur, but I have worked on several cases where people were killed due to drivers being distracted, which these could lead to – it’s very hard to predict ahead of time.

  25. Cone Jockey says:

    As a traffic control professional, I can see the humor in this. While it does present a danger in that showing an out of the ordinary message will distract drivers, you’re not going to cause any major pile-ups. The more important thing here is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution Versus Misuse of information. Every time a piece of information gets out that could be misused, there will inevitably be someone looking to suppress the speech that allowed the leak rather than to insist that the information not be misused. To be honest, I’ve been on the roads, both day and night and know few people who could look comfortable to pull this off. The fact is that if you’re not properly lit and donning the proper class of reflective garment, you’ve given yourself away. If you’re messing with a DOT owned unit it may have such features as remote programming, on board surveillance camera and tamper alarms(HINT:These would all communicate in real-time with a central monitoring location and 2 of 3 would bust you while the other would have you locked out). I’m not condoning the act of changing these messages because there are clearly issues both ethical and legal, but sounding off for the right to share the information to further the education of the world’s Makers. Lastly, I’ve met the guy who started Addco, the Mfg mentioned in the original post that this links out to, and I’m pretty sure he would see the humor in it…
    PS: If you figure out how to run the test mode, you’ll have an impressive display that won’t upset the Zombie Lovers…

  26. Michael Fusion says:

    Becky, it’s comments like that that made me fall in love with you!

  27. DrPearl says:

    Geez people, lighten up!

    On the internet, you can also find out how to make a gun, nuclear weapon, ammonium nitrate bomb, and dance like a stripper…..

    Doesn’t mean everyone will try to do any of it. Especially the stripper part.

  28. Zombie Watch says:

    ‘Zombie’ copycats hack electronic road signs:,25642,25003268-5014239,00.html

    There’s been a spate of these in the last week down here.

  29. Microdot says:

    The New York times picked up and AP wire story about this on their web addition. I’m guessing there will be fallout from this.

  30. anonymous says:

    i changed a sign that said 40 mph to 150 mph and 10 people went that speed realy!!!! and another sign 2 miles on to 0 mph

  31. Colecoman1982 says:

    Hey, at least they didn’t hack it to show a picture of a mooninite. The Texas bomb squad would still be out there trying to diffuse it…

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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