back to article US engineer in the clink for wrecking ex-bosses' smart meter radio masts with Pink Floyd lyrics

Fueled by beer and bitterness, a US techie logged into his ex-employer's radio towers to sabotage them – and is now behind bars as a result. Adam Flanagan, 42, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, worked as an engineer for a company that built radio masts used by utility companies to collect power and water usage data from home …

  1. ma1010 Silver badge
    Coat

    Well, at least he has good taste in music

    Probably why he got a lighter sentence. When I think of some of the lyrics he could have used, it's frightening.

    1. smudge Silver badge

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      I do hope it was "Is There Anybody Out There?".

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

        Time

      2. BillG Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

        The lunatic is on the hack...

    2. AbelSoul

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      Plans that either come to nought....

    3. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      Careful with that access, Eugene.

    4. jca111

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      As always, against companies, its a case of "Us and Them".

      I suspect when he sobered up he wanted to "Run Like Hell", but he had to much "Brain Damage" from the hangover. I bet it was a shock when the "Pigs" came around to visit.

      $40,000 fine is a lot of "Money", and I wonder if his "Mother" will come and visit him in Jail?

      1. PeteA
        Coat

        Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

        Only if she can get past The Wall

    5. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      If he wanted a lighter sentence, he could have just come up with a scheme to bundle junk loans into credit default swaps.

    6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

      When I think of some of the lyrics he could have used, it's frightening.

      Thunderbolts and lightning?

      1. Steve Hersey

        Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

        He's just a poor boy, from a poor family...

  2. Number6

    Remember, boys and girls, don't drink and hack when bitter.

    Alternatively, don't drink bitter and hack. If you're going to piss around, use the appropriate beverage (lager).

    1. Number6

      OK, at least five lager drinkers out there :-)

  3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    A new criminal act

    Be glad no one has a 'hacking under the influence' charge yet.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    90 years... should have just killed the guy and probably would have got a shorter sentence.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Or if he was a cop who killed a black man he'd be acquitted, serve no time, and have been on paid leave during the trial.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        ^ so much distasteful, uninformed and inflammatory sentiment in such as short post. And currently running 2:1 up:down. Sometimes I despair for humanity.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          @Adam 52 - You have a silver badge, that means you've been here a while. Cynicism runs through commentards like 'Brighton Rock' through sticks of candy.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Cynicism runs through commentards like 'Brighton Rock' through sticks of candy.

            Not always - sometimes I reach the dizzy heights of "mildly disillusioned".

            Then the drugs wear off.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      He should demand that they keep him alive long enough to serve his sentance. At their cost.

      Making up stupidly long sentances so the penal system can commute them down to something feasible is breaking the spirit of the law. Those reductions are there for a reason.

      The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coat

        The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

        Each count would be Involuntary manslaughter, 10-16 months, to be served concurrently. Much cheaper than overwriting The Man's slurp tower software w/ Pink Floyd lyrics, I wot....

      2. entropyk48

        His sentence is a year and a day, 3 years probation, and $40,000.00 fine. Not entirely unreasonable. His proposed sentence was ludicrous, I agree. Didn't I just read N. Korea threatened to "sharpen the blade" of its punishment re: protest over the recent death of the released American prisoner in a coma? I sometimes wonder when and where the punishment ever truly fits the crime.

  5. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    The story (and post about "shorter sentences") reminds me ...

    A story I heard on the radio in Ireland. A certain station master was responsible for making reports to head office whenever there was a train accident or derailment. Had something of a literary bent, it seems, because his reports ran into several pages of quite descriptive prose about the ins and outs of the incidents and the actions taken to get things back on track.

    Head office got a bit pissed off with the length of his reports and asked him to be a bit more to the point. The station master complied, and the next time there was a derailment (in 1921), his report simply stated: "Off again. On again. Gone again. Flanagan"

  6. Chairo
    Joke

    Good he didn't reprogram the radio towers

    to broadcast the songs. They would have called him a pirate and hang 'im from the yardarm.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Good he didn't reprogram the radio towers

      Surprised they didn't try to get him for copyright violations at $150,000 per incident for copying the lyrics onto the devices!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not now John

    I've gotta get on with this...

    1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Not now John

      Come at the end of the shift and we'll go and get pissed...

      Rather appropriate.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now he's behind the wall, it must feel like being on the dark side of the moon.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Coat

      Oh, I really do think they need some education and they need another brick in their (fire)wall...

  9. Kevin Fairhurst

    If he hadn't been so stupid and done something that caused the towers to disconnect, he could have done something considerably worse for the companies involved e.g. Adjust all meter readings down by a given percentage, thereby reducing the bills of all customers...

  10. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Sub title of the year

    So far.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Question: in theory, would it be possible to design a programming language that uses song lyrics as code? (After all, there is something like Ook! already.)

  12. Clive Harris

    While I was at university (Southampton) back in the '70s, the University Radio Club managed to intercept the microwave link to one of the BBC's radio relay stations (Radio 1, I think), and substitute their own program material. It went unnoticed for about 20 minutes until they broadcast an "emergency message" requiring all pensioners to report to their local police station for mandatory euthanasia.I don't recall any significant punishments being handed out in those far-off, innocent, days.

    A few years later, a member of the University Rock Climbing Club climbed up a BBC TV mast to unfurl a large banner at the top. When asked when they wanted to prosecute him, one of the the BBC technical managers is supposed to have replied "Nah!. He's been punished enough already. He's just climbed through the near field of a powerful transmitter. Just wait till he wants to have children!".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Near field of a powerful transmitter you say? Wish I'd known about this 18 years ago...

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      a member of the University Rock Climbing Club

      This is a phrase I haven't heard for a few years. Almost every time I have heard it, it's been in an anecdote which started off with one or more people getting drunk and ended with one or more people getting hurt. Not always the same people though.

      1. Clive Harris

        A member of the University Rock Climbing Club

        When I first arrived at the University, back in '75, I was quickly told that the University rag week was banned until further notice, on the orders of the Hampshire Police. A couple of years previously, a group of students, presumably the rock climbing club, had done a rag week stunt which went too far, even in those lenient times. They had broken into Parkhurst prison (max security), put up posters in some cells, and then left undetected. The police still hadn't figured out how they'd done it.

        I could mention about our team's (non) appearance on "University Challenge". The night before filming, the whole team got so drunk they were too hung over to take part, and the recording had to be cancelled. I don't think we were every invited again, at least not in my time.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: A member of the University Rock Climbing Club

          Proper students then, not girly swots like wot usually appear on UC :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A member of the University Rock Climbing Club

          Durham University has "Duck":- Durham University Charity weeK.

          Durham University hasn't had a Rag week for a very long time (possibly the early 80's), *alledgedly* because of students breaking into the high security prison there and leaving a box of milk tray on the govenor's desk.

          Now, I don't know about the truth of the above, but my favourite story about the Durham Rag week (when it still existed) was that the climbing club hung an Austen 7 from a bridge over the river some time in the 1960's.

          https://community.dur.ac.uk/j.d.little/kingsgate/viewtopichtml_files/414.jpg

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: A member of the University Rock Climbing Club

            Amateurs. In my first year at KCL the Tower of London was taken over. Someone had noticed that the guard hut door opened outwards. Smuggle in a long enough length of rope...

    3. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Was it Goonhilly, or Martlesham satellite stations, where, BT being a bit miffed with flyers getting too close to the dish, painted a large message on it.

      Basically, it said something like "Your 'nads have been fried!"

      (Anyone shine any more info?)

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Cound never happen in the UK

    Where the "smart" meter reading will be done by a company run by those heroes of HR, Capita.

    Known for their excellent working environment, careful hiring policies and air tight IT security. *

    *Some of these statements may not be literally true.

  14. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    In hindsight, lyrics of "Jailhouse Rock" might have been more appropriate (or "Highway to Hell"). Pink Floyd definitely has more class, however

  15. drand
    Thumb Up

    Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

    Nice to know there's a bit of Wales in the US of A. I wonder if they have the same suicidal sheep.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

      Sheep are suicidal everywhere. After all, according to Granny Aching they are just bags of wool and bones looking for new ways to die.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

      I wonder how they pronounce it.

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

        According to Wikipedia, /ˈbælə ˈkɪnwʊd/ BAL-ə-KIN-wuud

        No mention of sheep.

        How do they pronounce "Wikipedia" in Welsh?

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

        Wales or the States, it probably won 't be pronounced how it looks.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

          "Don't ask for directions in Wales Baldrick, you'll be washing spit out of your hair for a week!"

      3. Brian Souder 1

        Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

        Very wrong. lol I myself included. Comes out more like Kin-Wid, have heard Kin-Wood from a lot. But then most of the people can't pronounce anything right anyway, so it would be an exercise in futility to correct it. I had a new manager at a job that had just moved into the area from down south. He was asking me how to pronounce all these names like Schuylkill or Conshohocken (funny enough - not far from Bala Cynwyd). It seems the further north and west you go in PA, the crazier the names get.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

          Cynwyd

          From my brief stay in that sunny place, I think it is pronounced Kin-oo-id.

          The C is hard, like a K. The 'Y' is 'i' as in kid. W is oo as in moo. I could be wrong, I left before the cottage was burnt down.

    3. Brian Souder 1

      Re: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

      As a matter of fact, the Schuylkill Expressway runs right next to Bala Cynwyd. Runs down the West Side of Philadelphia. It is more like lemmings really. We refer to it as the surekill, as there is certain to be an accident there. The police have certain spots along the route they just wait for the inevitable every day. I worked down there for about 6 months. You find alternate side roads. All of the local broadcast TV stations are in Bala Cynwyd, so I was initially thinking it was going to be about transmission towers. DRAND - now were you referring to Bala Cynwyd or the lad, Adam Flanagan? lol Actually, if you check a map in the area, you will see more of Ireland.

  16. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Happy

    Remember, boys and girls, don't drink and hack when bitter.

    Remember, boys and girls, don't drink bitter and hack. TFTFY

    When you drink, you are more likely to make silly mistakes ...

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Semi-relevent Heinlein quote:

      "Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss."

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "As far as a master hacking ring. That's insane. That is... I mean I wish I had that skill."

    He didn't need to. Sack employee without changing passwords he had access to? Root passwords? The company should have been charged as well.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Sack employee without changing passwords he had access to? Root passwords? "

    It's a fair point, which is why I upvoted you. They fired him and they didn't think he was going to be a tad upset by this?

    Still, it does sound a little like blaming the victim though, doesn't it?

    Abuse of trust Vs V.Poor outplacement process.

    Hmm, six of one, half dozen of the other......

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Sack employee without changing passwords he had access to? Root passwords? "

      "Still, it does sound a little like blaming the victim though, doesn't it?"

      Not really. They were both abusing basic security, albeit in two different ways. If, say, this guy had been more adept at covering his tracks and there was a current employee might easily have come under suspicion. Changing the passwords ought to be routine and is in everyone's interest.

  19. The Bionic Man

    What was in the ascii?

    Probably nothing nice... but in the interest of a full report, it'd be nice to know :)

  20. confused.brit

    Erm. it's not hacking. He knew root.

    Industrial sabotage is the term.

    And employer was asking for it by not changing the damn root password after he left. Any sensible business does this, even if the IT person left on good terms!

  21. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Does anyone but me..

    ..think that the original proposed sentence of "90 years" is a tad high for essentially disrupting a radio station??

    I mean all references of "Careful with that Axe Eugene" aside, you could truly be an axe murderer or do other unspeakable acts and be sentenced to a fraction of that.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the next time I'm drunk and hacking, I won't be bitter.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "So the next time I'm drunk and hacking, I won't be bitter."

      Just do it in the right spirit.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unanswered question...

    So when the rest of the network tried to connect to the sabotaged stations did they begin transmission with the phrase "this is the United States calling, are we reaching?"?

  24. Herby Silver badge

    Don't do the crime...

    If you can't do the time...

    Lesson to be learned here, even if it was a small (relatively speaking) interval.

    Of course, no humans were actually harmed in this picture.

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