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5 times hackers had a sense of humor

Hacking is no laughing matter — most of the time. Whether it’s a well-placed pop culture reference or a cupcake-themed counterterrorism operation, some hacks are so funny that you just have to laugh. Here are five times hackers reminded us that they had a sense of humor.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins

Jun 18, 2021 · 4 min read

5 times hackers had a sense of humor

1: Ellen takes on al-Qaeda

“Warning: sugar rush ahead!” That was a direct quote from a terrorist manual entitled, “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”. Had al-Qaeda finally decided to swap bombs for baking powder?

Not exactly. In 2011, UK intelligence agencies managed to hack an online Jihadist network. They took the opportunity to edit one of the site’s free bomb-making guides, replacing the original contents with text and code from a very different webpage: Ellen DeGeneres's The Best Cupcakes in America.

Instead of a recipe for lethal pipe-bombs, would-be terrorists were given details on how to bake a mojito cupcake. Delicious, and only deadly if you eat more than five in one sitting.

2: A glorious resurrection!

“Stackoverflowin has returned to his glory, your printer is part of a flaming botnet, the hacker god has returned from the dead. YOUR PRINTER HAS BEEN OWNED.”

This message was spat out by thousands of printers in 2017. The text appeared on a freshly printed sheet of paper, along with the image of a vengeful robot.

The genius behind the attack? A single hacker, using the alias Stackoverflowin. He set up an automated program to comb the Internet, finding and accessing more than 150,000 unsecured printers.

Thankfully, Stackoverflowin must have been in a good mood that day. After warning of the imminent return of “the hacker god”, he just told his victims to fix their broken security systems. If the next hacker to stumble on a vulnerability like that is a cybercriminal, how much damage could they do?

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3: Godzilla vs. Rush Hour Traffic: the movie

In 2014, drivers in San Francisco spotted a slightly unusual traffic sign. Electronic displays along Van Ness Avenue began flashing a warning: “Godzilla Attack! Turn back”.

That’s not bad advice, actually — you don’t hang around when Godzilla shows up. But on this occasion, there was no impending kaiju attack. Hackers had managed to access parts of San Francisco’s traffic alert system, and decided to have some fun with it.

Photographs of the incident were widely shared online, and most people saw the funny side. Homeland Security were slightly less amused.

4: Donald Trump teases his new mixtape

In 2013, the Twitter account of the man who would become the 45th US president posted: “These hoes think they classy, well that's the class I'm skippen”.

Either Donald Trump was about to drop a new collab with the rapper Lil Wayne, from whose song the lyrics were taken, or he’d been hacked. Trump quickly clarified that it was the latter, announcing, “My Twitter has been seriously hacked — and we are looking for the perpetrators”.

Somehow, a reference to classy hoes still isn't the strangest thing Trump’s account has Tweeted (I’m looking at you, covfefe).

There are so many things a hacker can do once they’re inside your social media; they can lock you out, target your friends with phishing attacks, and access linked accounts. And sure, they might just post a Lil Wayne quote — but don’t count on it. Why not take some time to secure your own Twitter today?

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5: AC/DC make it in Iran

Cyber warfare may be the future of international conflict, but some of its practitioners still look to the past for inspiration. To 1990, to be precise, when rock legends AC/DC released their song Thunderstruck.

Two decades later, it was blasting over the soundsystem in nuclear facilities across Iran. A virus called Stuxnet (apparently created by US and Israeli forces) had infected state computer networks, disrupting their nuclear program. To add a bit of spice, the hackers forced multiple workstations to play Thunderstruck at top volume.

Along with most other forms of music, rock and roll is banned in the country, so this may have been AC/DC’s only chance to make it big in the Iranian market. Sadly, the band is yet to land a single on Iran's Billboard Hot 100.

How to always have the last laugh

Sadly, most hacks aren’t as funny as the ones we’ve covered in this article. If your passwords are stolen or your device is infected with ransomware, you’ll probably feel more like crying than laughing.

With a few precautions, however, you can make sure you’re never the butt of a cybercriminal's bad joke. Follow these three steps today to supercharge your online security.

    1. Stop using simple passwords. Tacking your birth year onto the name of your pet won’t cut it anymore; that’s not a strong password. Your login credentials are often the only things standing between the hackers and your private information, so make them as complex as possible. Mix uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers. And if that’s too hard to remember, get a password manager to generate and store your login details.
    2. Take a caution-first approach. The less trusting you are online, the safer you’ll be. An email from an unknown sender? It might be a phishing attack. A brightly colored pop-up ad? Malware incoming! Implementing a caution-first approach online will lower the chances of you sleep-walking into the hands of a hacker, and will make sure you’re never taken off-guard.
    3. Start using a VPN. Using a VPN is probably the simplest and most effective way to enhance your online security. VPNs, or virtual private networks, are services that encrypt your data. With a good VPN on your device, hackers and snoopers can’t spy on your online activity. One NordVPN account will allow you to secure up to six devices, so you never have to go unprotected again.

Online security is no joke.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN