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The five most embarrassing hacks in cyber history

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As we move further into the digital age, the threat of cybercrime will continue to rise and evolve in sophisticated ways.

The internet has grown and developed more rapidly than the law can keep up, but with cybersecurity being one of the most lucrative and fast-growing industries in the world, cybercrime and malicious hackers are always looking for new ways to get ahead.

This trend is being fast-forwarded at La Trobe University, which launched three popular and successful Master of Cybersecurity degrees in 2017, and will back that up with a Bachelor of Cybersecurity degree commencing this year.

In celebration of the launch of the Bachelor of Cybersecurity, we’ve compiled a list of some of the funniest and most embarrassing hacks throughout history.

The gentleman hacker of 1903

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 powerplant

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

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

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”.


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.

In the real world, however, cybersecurity is a little more complex than that.

With cybercrime continuing to grow at unprecedented rates, so too is the industry to counter it. In Australia, predictions indicate that the demand for computer security experts will grow by over 20 per cent over the next twelve months.

So it comes as no surprise that with the sector poised for a massive boom, new and industry-ready degrees are being put together around the country. The world of cybersecurity is fast-paced, exciting and more vital than ever – get involved!

Developed alongside leaders in the field, La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Cybersecurity and Master of Cybersecurity degrees provide both the technical skills and holistic knowledge to kickstart a career in one of Australia’s rapidly growing industries. If you want to start this year, you’ll want to apply right now.

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