Crime & Courts

‘Bubble bandit’ hacks into road signs, tells everyone ‘I like cheese’, SC officials say

A hacker changed the messages on S.C. road signs.
A hacker changed the messages on S.C. road signs. Twitter screen grab

The bubble bandit has struck again.

Over the weekend, someone hacked into two digital traffic signs, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, or SCDOT. The messages that drivers saw on S.C. roads did not have anything to do with detours, collisions or directions.

Instead the signs said “Bubble bandit was here” and “I like cheese,” SCDOT Public Information Coordinator Lauren Roundtree said in an interview with The State.

Roundtree said the hacker is believed to be the same person suspected of vandalizing fountains by having them overflow with soap bubbles — hence the bubble bandit nickname.

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The signs that were hacked were located on Lamar Highway in the PeeDee region, not far from Florence. That’s where at least three vandalized fountains were reported, according to the Florence Police Department, which said there were also reports of fountains being soaped in nearby Darlington and Marion, The State reported.

The vandalism is not a harmless prank according to police who said that gallons of liquid soap poured into the fountain can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, The State reported.

“Hopefully people will understand that it may seem funny at first, but there is a cost,” Lt. Mike Brandt told The State in August. “And that cost filters out to all of us.”

Roundtree did not say how the hacker gained access to the signs, but reported there are locked keyboards attached to these signs where the messages could have been altered.

The messages about cheese and the bubble bandit were not removed until Monday, Roundtree said.

No arrests have been made according to Roundtree, who said the hacked signs are being investigated by SCDOT officials.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.