Wednesday, March 26, 2008


SKULLPHONE is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, coated with a secret sauce. This digital prankster has hijacked Clear Channel Communications‘ 10 most prominent digital billboards in the Los Angeles area.

More photos here.

I love the hack-as-prank. Criminal hackers, stealing identities and draining bank accounts, are just goons with GUIs instead of guns; a big yawn. Sadly, hacking for fun, learning, anarchy and not-for-profit is on the way out. The recent disbanding of the VX group 29A heralds an age of hacking as a predominantly commercial venture. This is evidenced by the fact that the top infecter these days is Adware, not viruses.

In the wake of the aging Billboard Liberation Front, SKULLPHONE is a breath of fresh bits and gonzo freakage in a banal consumer driven economy and a digital underground that has largely abandoned the prank for the gank.

I hold out hope that younger generations will spearhead a backlash, moving away from predatory hacking and toward more clever and artful works. The prank is a reality check, a peek behind the curtain, a suspension of suspension of disbelief... it keeps us from getting too encrusted with cynicism, despair, ephemera, idiot humor and morbid seriousness.

I sense some ludic possibilities with RFID hacking, but I haven't heard much about this lately.

Hacking someone's pacemaker, is not a prank, however; it is more likely murder.

Further out, a world of ubiquitous computing could find itself vulnerable to all sorts of unanticipated pranks, hacks and attacks.

Also, RUMINT has it that berserker gangs from World of Warcraft have found ways to breach Second Life and are staging raids. (Anybody have any hard evidence of this? I remember reading about this in an interview with one of the developers of Second Life, but I can't find the source.) I love the idea of cross-platform invasion. I think we'll see some amazing gaming mash-up mods in the near future.

UPDATE HERE: apparently Mr. Skullphone paid for the billboards. Never mind.



Alan Evil said...

Hmmmmmmmmm... Doesn't Darth Cheney wear a pacemaker?

John M. said...

Yep, his name has popped up in a few of the stories. The secret service is probably workshopping this as we speak.