Crime

Phoenix Highway Hacker Strikes Again

For the second time in 24 hours, an electronic roadside message board was hacked to display a profane message to motorists driving by. This time, the message condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin, who declared war on Ukraine this morning.
For the second time in 24 hours, an electronic roadside message board was hacked to display a profane message to motorists driving by. This time, the message condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin, who declared war on Ukraine this morning. Reddit

A mystery prankster with unauthorized access to construction traffic signs along Interstate 17 in Phoenix watches world news. And this person sent a geopolitical message to motorists on Wednesday night.


Phoenix New Times already spent time sleuthing about a sign near I-17 and Thunderbird Road in North Phoenix that was hijacked Tuesday night, displaying a vulgar sexual command to motorists driving past.

It didn’t take long for the hacker or hackers to target another illuminated message board on I-17, this time on the interstate near Thunderbird Road.

The political vigilante manipulated the traffic sign to say “FUCK PUTIN.”


Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine Thursday morning, Moscow time, and launched a full-scale invasion of his neighbor.

Within the first 24 hours, more than 100 missiles rained down on troops and civilians and 75 bombers targeted military sites throughout the former Soviet country as Russia began to invade from the north, south, and east.


Margarita Kuznetsova, 24, is one of an estimated 700,000 Ukrainian citizens evacuating the country to the west into Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. She was displaced from her home in the capital city of Kyiv after gunfire and explosions shook the city.


“We all heard the explosions,” Kuznetsova told New Times on her way to Poland. “It was terrible.”


That’s what led “hacktivists” to commandeer the message board in Phoenix and share a sentiment of solidarity with Ukrainians in a state-controlled by Republicans who are accused of backing Putin’s bellicose narrative.


Valley residents took to Reddit to share an image of the sign and vocalize their support of its message.


“They need to program all the overhead signs with a catchy fuck Putin rhyme,” one Reddit user wrote in the thread dedicated to Phoenix residents.


The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Phoenix Police Department yesterday touted how “rare” this type of criminal mischief is.

Not so much, this week. 


But the pair of crimes separated by just 24 hours and a stone's throw away from each other isn’t enough for the police department to consider a trend, Sergeant Phil Krynsky said.


Police could not speculate if the same prankster was responsible for both stunts.


“Phoenix currently has not been investigating any type of sign manipulation,” Krynsky said. “But if they are forcing entry into those signs, it would be a criminal damage charge.”


Criminal damage is a felony in Arizona punishable by up to two and a half years in prison.


Witnesses claim to have seen Arizona Department of Transportation workers correcting the text on the message board early Wednesday morning.


“We don’t have additional information at this time,” ADOT spokesperson Doug Nintzel said.

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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss