Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A history of television hijacking.
November 22, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

During the 70s and 80s a new phenomenon appeared. Television Hijacking. It started in 1977 when a man in England hijacked the sound broadcast of a newscast. In 1986, a hijacker known as Captain Midnight hijacked HBO in response to their scrambling of television signals. The year after (20 years ago as of today), a character disguised as Max Headroom (a television character) infiltrated two Chicago television studios in one night. First the man infiltrated Channel 9 (WGN) for a few seconds with no sound, and then moved on to attack another Chicago station, this time with sound. After the Max Headroom incident, television hacking incidents were rare in the United States except for this one in Wyoming.
posted by ooklala (38 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
As seen here.
posted by absalom at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2007


Link from prior post.
posted by absalom at 6:11 PM on November 22, 2007


I thought it would be good to compile all the links.
posted by ooklala at 6:25 PM on November 22, 2007


*ahem*
posted by motty at 6:27 PM on November 22, 2007


The "Wyoming incident" is considered a hoax of sorts. See the discussion here.
posted by Brian B. at 6:29 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


well, there is a still shot of mit romney just as the programming fades, 6 minutes of weirdness, followed by the return to the news broadcast, still showing the still of mit romney. it's a very lousy hoax of sorts.
posted by quonsar at 6:40 PM on November 22, 2007


I call shenanigans on the Wyoming incident footage. The video quality looks 100% perfect, like something ripped straight from Premiere, and the snow and interference look totally fake.
posted by chips ahoy at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2007


That's not a hoax. If you look at recent news sites, you can very clearly see Mitt Romney pictured as governor of Massachusetts. Seriously, go google it.

Also: smart way to do a hoax. Say it happened in Wyoming. But ask somebody from Wyoming, and they'll give you the blankest look you've ever seen; they've never heard of it. Never happened. But they're generally not the types to go on the internet and tell you.

Y'all should get up to Wyoming more often.

posted by koeselitz at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


As seen here a few days ago.

Is it still OK to snark about this sort of petty thing? Or is that so 2005?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:10 PM on November 22, 2007


Sure would be cool, but sadly I think the Wyoming Incident is about as real as Polybius.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:12 PM on November 22, 2007


An interesting development.
posted by ooklala at 7:16 PM on November 22, 2007


Yea...I don't know if you're trying to jumpstart interest in The Wyoming Project ARG with this FPP or something, but yea, sorry to burst your bubble whether you are or not. That video is actually part of an alternative reality game. Or at least was part of. When I checked last a while ago, the Cubing Forum connected to it seemed to still be active, but I don't know what direction that game is going anymore. They were following it pretty hardcore on Something Awful as well, but didn't they end up finding out it was the project of a goon or something? I forget, but all the threads going on about it with people following the game real time made for interesting reading/research for a while, but yea, it seemed the excitement seemed to taper off a bit.

Anyway, lots of people linking to outside stuff, but if you want even more information, here's the thread on the Unfiction Forums.
posted by kkokkodalk at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2007


There's more than one way to skin a cat hijack a TV station. After his command performance, Gary went on to become a fixture in some of the weirder corners of Usenet for many years, always trying to convince the world of his plight.
posted by scalefree at 8:12 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you look at recent news sites, you can very clearly see Mitt Romney pictured as governor of Massachusetts. Seriously, go google it.

that's not my point - we're supposed to beleive that almost 6 minutes later the newscast returned and was STILL showing the same picture? yah, right.
posted by quonsar at 8:16 PM on November 22, 2007


Not to hijack the thread, but checking those links reminded me of how funny Max Headroom was back in the 1980s. Yes I'm a sucker for Matt Frewer's sense of humor I admit it. Whatever happened to that glorious bastard? I mean okay, he's reportedly supposed to be in the upcoming Watchmen movie, but doing what? I wish I knew how to find the short-lived television series. Not the videos thing. The live action scifi thing that didn't last a season. I remember enjoying it but then it got canceled.

As for hijacking network signals, it's been evident for decades that the airwaves are only free to those who can afford them. This is nothing new. The fact hijacking network signals happens less frequently than streaking or "wardrobe malfunctions" on network TV is disappointing, but yet more circumstantial evidence pointing towards the corporate oligarchy pretending to be a democratic republic, which is getting to be old hat. Nothing more to see there.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:18 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Max Hedroom... Oh Man!!

64 bit graphics, with glitches! I can't believe they made a whole (limited) TV series where he was a crime fighter.
So 80's. even tho it was the 90's.
posted by Balisong at 9:03 PM on November 22, 2007


If you look at recent news sites, you can very clearly see Mitt Romney pictured as governor of Massachusetts. Seriously...

that's not my point...

MetaFilter: We control the vertical. We control the horizontal. We control the sarcasm adjustment.
posted by rokusan at 9:03 PM on November 22, 2007


The first man in the MATRIX!
posted by Balisong at 9:03 PM on November 22, 2007


Whatever happened to that glorious bastard?

He's playing an eccentric Australian animal control officer on the less than stellar sci-fi television offering Eureka.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:05 PM on November 22, 2007


He's playing Moloch in the Watchmen movie, which is a very minor character. A 'super-villain' that isn't super.
posted by empath at 9:22 PM on November 22, 2007


Is this even possible to do with modern satellite and cable television?
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:24 PM on November 22, 2007


The Wyoming Incident was a goon prank, along with the micro-ARG that accompanied it. If I had archives/search I could find the thread in which the perpetrators (and I use that term loosely, I think the whole thing was damned cool) talked about how/why they did it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:38 PM on November 22, 2007


Is this even possible to do with modern satellite and cable television?

In theory it's still possible, but it's unlikely.

The intrusion was done in each case by overpowering the correct signal with a higher power broadcast.

TV stations are often some distance from their transmitter tower. Rather than run cable between the locations, many stations would use a microwave link to send the TV signal to the transmitter. In the past, this was done in the clear with a an analog signal. Meaning there was no security other than the fact that it was unlikely anyone would have what was needed to interfere since it was quite expensive gear and you needed to know a lot of information about the transmission.

Same for the HBO satellite intrusion. In the past, the uplink signal fed to satellites was an encrypted analog signal. If you could over power HBO's signal, the satellite wouldn't care, lock onto your signal, and rebroadcast it down to all the receivers.

Today most links of this type are digital and encrypted, so would be very hard to force your own video through the system. It is possible to interrupt service though by broadcast a bunch of energy at the receiver, overwhelming the receiving end. It happens all the time on accident. This is called being 'stepped on' by another broadcaster.

You might see some thing like this with news or sports. Broadcasters rent time on the satellite transponders and have only specific hours to use it before giving it up to the next broadcaster. Make a mistake in the frequency or bird you are looking at, and problems begin.

The group of people that have the gear powerful enough (7-9 meter dishes and high power klystrons) to cause a problem is small and generally sorts this kind of thing out quickly.

If you wanted to pull this off today, it would need to be an inside job within the broadcaster.
posted by Argyle at 10:55 PM on November 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


Now here's something weird....

I was reading this thread a few moments ago, and got a little bored (sorry for that). So I did the decent thing and clicked the StumbleUpon button....

And it gave me this. Someone's obviously hijacking my internets. Stop it now!
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:12 AM on November 23, 2007


$12.95/MONTH ?

NO WAY !
posted by Tube at 4:12 AM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


My god, quonsar missed a joke. I think the End Times are near.
posted by languagehat at 4:28 AM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


no, seriously -- quonsar used to be funny, right? f'reals, i'm not just imagining it? because... damn.
posted by Hat Maui at 4:35 AM on November 23, 2007


I don't care how many times I see it, that Max Headroom footage freaks me out.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:52 AM on November 23, 2007


If you wanted to pull this off today, it would need to be an inside job within the broadcaster.

Or have control of the uplink station from the outside. They may be behind several firewalls but I know firsthand that satellite uplink stations are on Internet-accessible networks. If it can be reached, it can be subverted.
posted by scalefree at 7:48 AM on November 23, 2007


So...the revolution could be televised?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:06 AM on November 23, 2007


Not to hijack the thread, but checking those links reminded me of how funny Max Headroom was back in the 1980s...I wish I knew how to find the short-lived television series. Not the videos thing. The live action scifi thing that didn't last a season. I remember enjoying it but then it got canceled.
The magic of Bittorrent, friend. I asked myself that same question a while back, and the problem solved itself. The series is interesting -- the style doesn't hold up very well when compared to recent stuff, but when you look at it and remember that it was on network television in the freakin' 1980s, it's pretty impressive.
posted by verb at 10:50 AM on November 23, 2007


I thought it was just a single television movie.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:37 PM on November 23, 2007


This one was pretty clever. They broke into a weathercam and changed up the signal.
posted by topynate at 12:49 PM on November 23, 2007


Sometimes all it takes is a plastic dinosaur.
posted by scalefree at 3:37 PM on November 23, 2007


I loved this one: A group of artists in Czechoslovakia hacked an automatic camera and gave it a video of a nuclear bomb exploding.
posted by joelf at 4:36 PM on November 23, 2007


I worked for the Defense Dept at the time Captain Midnight hijacked HBO, we were VERY **VERY** interested in how he did it. I worked on a paper to show how we will safe guard our "assets" (read secret defense satellites) for this happening to us.
posted by BillsR100 at 7:13 PM on November 23, 2007


actually, you don't even need to hijack officially if you plan it right--these Black Friday shoppers were successful, and that Bridge team too. (and don't forget all the surveillance camera stuff)
posted by amberglow at 3:11 PM on November 24, 2007


I remember seeing the Max Headroom hijack footage on our local newscast, and it freaked the hell out of me.
posted by Spatch at 5:44 AM on November 25, 2007


« Older Let’s Do Lunch....  |  Secret Warrants Granted Withou... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments