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United Kingdom Communications Music Network Security

Radio Station Hijacked Eight Times In the Past Month To Play 'I'm a Wanker' Song (bleepingcomputer.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: An unknown hacker has hijacked the radio frequency of a UK radio station to play an obscene song eight times during the past month, according to the radio station's manager who recently revealed the hacks in an interview with BBC Radio 4. The hacks have been reported to Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, who together with the radio station's staff have tried to track down the culprit at last three times, without success. Ofcom and radio station officials believe the hacker is using a mobile radio transmitter to broadcast a stronger signal on the radio station's normal frequency, overriding its normal program. In eight different occasions, the hacker has taken over broadcasts and has been heard talking, screaming, or singing, and then playing "The Winker's Song" (NSFW) by British comedian Ivor Biggun, a track about self-pleasure released in the 70s. Station manager Tony Delahunty told BBC Radio he received phone calls from distressed listeners complaining that their kids started humming the song. Fellow radio stations also called Delahunty to inquire about the hack, fearing similar hijacks.
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Radio Station Hijacked Eight Times In the Past Month To Play 'I'm a Wanker' Song

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  • Funny! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lucas T├ętreault ( 4893891 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:33PM (#54797135)
    "calls from distressed listeners complaining that their kids started humming the song" -- that's hilarious
    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:42PM (#54797181)

      "calls from distressed listeners complaining that their kids started humming the song" -- that's hilarious

      Yeah, the concept of the wanker song distressing mum and daddy is funny. Think of the Children!!!

      I for one, welcome our new wanking overlords and their jam.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        Yeah, the concept of the wanker song distressing mum and daddy is funny. Think of the Children!!!

        I'm just wondering how many text filters are generating alerts on "mum, daddy, wanker and children" in the same sentence.

        • Yeah, the concept of the wanker song distressing mum and daddy is funny. Think of the Children!!!

          I'm just wondering how many text filters are generating alerts on "mum, daddy, wanker and children" in the same sentence.

          Hilarious! This is the story that keeps on giving.

      • Kids these days are soft.

        The lyrics to the "The Winker" were required reading at my Primary School growing up. Let me guess- they don't even take GCSE's in masturbation anymore either?

        • Damn right, back when I went to school our PE teacher showed us how to masturbate, and we could even try it on him to see if we do it right.

          What? Why is everyone looking at me funny now?

          • Extra credit if you could shoot it above the monkey bars.

          • Damn right, back when I went to school our PE teacher showed us how to masturbate, and we could even try it on him to see if we do it right.

            What? Why is everyone looking at me funny now?

            Ah, I see you kids studied under Jerry Sandusky.

    • Re:Funny! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @07:02PM (#54797333)

      I agree, and personally I'm happy to have something like this lift my spirits and lighten things up

    • This song came out in 1978. I was about 2 years old at the time and I am 40 years old. I am surprised they did not find anything more contemporary than this,
      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Well, if the UK's equivalent of the FCC fines people for the language used, perhaps the person that did this chose a song that didn't have really any actual profanity in it to prevent the station from being fined for broadcasting profanity.

        Did them a favor, really.

      • This song came out in 1978. I was about 2 years old at the time and I am 40 years old. I am surprised they did not find anything more contemporary than this,

        I'm betting the perpetrator is older than you. This song was a running joke on CB radio back in the '70s. People used to broadcast it all day long on channel 19.

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        The '70s was the golden age of masturbation songs.
        My favourite is Skyhooks "Smut" from the album "Living in the 70s".

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • by dwye ( 1127395 )

      The parents should be glad that the pirate didn't play that 1970s classic "Love To Love You, Baby" , with simulated orgasmic moans all throughout.

    • So broadcasting a more powerful signal is considered hacking now :|
    • It'll be hilarious to hack Trump by shouting louder than him.
  • Tony Delahunty's ratings "book" (UK equivalent?) will skyrocket for 3rd quarter.
  • It's like a British Bababouie.

  • A stronger signal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dlleigh ( 313922 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:49PM (#54797223)

    > Ofcom and radio station officials believe the hacker is using a mobile radio transmitter to broadcast a stronger signal on the radio station's normal frequency, overriding its normal program.

    Either this is the weakest commercial radio station in the world, or the "hacker" has access to a massive amplifier and antenna, or he's just overriding the station's frequency in a very small area. My money is on the last of those, and also that this story is of negligible significance.

    Or perhaps the officials are wrong and the guy is overpowering a much weaker studio-to-transmitter link and using the station's own signal to broadcast his onanistic outrage.

    • Either this is the weakest commercial radio station in the world, or the "hacker" has access to a massive amplifier and antenna, or he's just overriding the station's frequency in a very small area.

      I'd guess he's overpowering the uplink on a relay. The area might not be that small.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Do they actually relay transmit radio broadcasts from other radio broadcasts anymore? Like picking up a distant 92.5 station and retransmitting it locally on 101.3 or something? I would think they would have a microwave uplink or a terrestrial data link these days to any transmitter, and not rely on the signal from a distant broadcast.

        • Do they actually relay transmit radio broadcasts from other radio broadcasts anymore?

          I am not an expert in this area, like so many others :) but Wikipedia suggests yes [wikipedia.org].

        • Do they actually relay transmit radio broadcasts from other radio broadcasts anymore? Like picking up a distant 92.5 station and retransmitting it locally on 101.3 or something?

          In the US, yes they do. It's called a "translator" and it is very common in much of Oregon, e.g., where there are few large broadcasters and they want to cover a lot of rural terrain. It's done with radio and television, both.

          But many stations also use a studio-transmitter link to send the studio signal to the transmitter up on the mountain or outside the urban area. Microwave, usually, and the last one I heard live was around 950 MHz.

          • by TWX ( 665546 )

            And apparently this station doesn't use any form of security on that link despite the means to transmit being very well known. You'd think they would spend the money to add some equipment at both ends to prevent actual takeover, so that the worst a future attack could do would be to silence the station.

            • by swb ( 14022 )

              I would assume that a microwave link would be tougher to overpower without getting away with it, requiring line of sight, proximity and power.

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday July 13, 2017 @02:30AM (#54798969)

        I'd guess he's overpowering the uplink on a relay. The area might not be that small.

        You are right, they covered this in greater depth on radio 4. It is during outside broadcasts, where the radio broadcasts from a reporter with a microphone to a base unit to the station. They were not clear on whether the stronger signal overcame the link from the microphone to the base unit or from the base unit to the station.

        What surprises me is that this is not encrypted.

        • by Alioth ( 221270 )

          It's quite possible that the link isn't even digital, it may be FM analogue.

          • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

            It's quite possible that the link isn't even digital, it may be FM analogue.

            very possibly. The Guardian [theguardian.com] says:

            We are told by Ofcom who are investigating the matter, that you only need, and this is the frightening thing, a small transmitter and if you can get near where there is an outside broadcast or a signal and you can overpower that signal [and] you’re on the airwaves.

            • We are told by Ofcom who are investigating the matter, that you only need, and this is the frightening thing, a small transmitter and if you can get near where there is an outside broadcast or a signal and you can overpower that signal [and] youâ(TM)re on the airwaves.

              Frightening! Egads!

              Perhaps the situation is similar to the USA [wikipedia.org] for some odd reason? Looks like the article has several bones to pick, but anyway.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Something doesn't make sense here. If this person was overpowering an outside broadcast unit, why didn't the station just switch to some other signal (like the presenter in their offices) instead of playing that song?

          • If this person was overpowering an outside broadcast unit, why didn't the station just switch to some other signal (like the presenter in their offices) instead of playing that song?

            Presumably because they're not doing their jobs and paying attention to what is going out over the air. Ever heard dead air on the radio? Same thing, only with less consequences. It's not uncommon for there to be nobody awake at the switch. It seems daft for that to be the case when you're relaying a report, but there's no shortage of daft bastards.

            • Presumably because they're not doing their jobs and paying attention to what is going out over the air.

              I guess the song was an accurate description of what the guys in the station were doing at that time.....

              Ever heard dead air on the radio?

              The stations I know have an automated "emergency" loop for that, starting a special playlist directly to the transmitter if the input is silent for more than 30 seconds. The playlist has songs usually NOT on rotation so even engineers off duty will be alerted (if they listen to the station) and suddenly can hear "Help" (Bangles version)

          • Because that would entail putting a person to watch over the broadcast. You'd be amazed how much automation is going on at networks these days. There are times when they're on full autopilot, for smaller stations it's not uncommon to put in a long music (+ad, of course) list at around 9pm and basically press "play" 'til the 6am morning news.

    • by ve3oat ( 884827 )
      I think this last option (over powering the studio-transmitter link) is much more likely. Even a low-power radio used by the pirate in the vicinity of the station's transmitter site could over-power the weaker signal from the distant studio. So the transmitter site receives only the signal from the pirate and not the weaker signal from the studio, especially if the STL uses frequency modulation (FM) (and I think most of them do). This trick is easy to do, and I am surprised it doesn't happen more often.
    • Either this is the weakest commercial radio station in the world, or the "hacker" has access to a massive amplifier and antenna, or he's just overriding the station's frequency in a very small area. My money is on the last of those, and also that this story is of negligible significance.

      I agree, it's likely the last. Before Bluetooth head units became common in cars people used to have FM transmitters plugged into their iDevices to play music/podcasts through their car speakers. It wasn't uncommon to have your preferred radio station overridden by someone's transmitter set to a commercial frequency as they passed you in traffic.

    • Right. That's not hijacking a radio station, it's just running your own radio station at a higher wattage. To really hijack a radio station, see Airheads [imdb.com].
    • Or he's simply overriding the stations transmitter input - you'd be surprised - at least in the US its very often a low power, clear (not encrypted) microwave relay.

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      Or perhaps the officials are wrong and the guy is overpowering a much weaker studio-to-transmitter link and using the station's own signal to broadcast his onanistic outrage.

      Looks like the officials have been poorly summarised in the original article; it seems like a radio van to studio link was hijacked.

      “We are told by Ofcom who are investigating the matter, that you only need, and this is the frightening thing, a small transmitter and if you can get near where there is an outside broadcast or a signal and you can overpower that signal [and] you’re on the airwaves.

      https://www.theguardian.com/tv... [theguardian.com]

    • It's not of negligible significance if the existing infrastructure is vulnerable to this kind of attack on a widespread basis. If all you need is an ordinary car and a small bit of kit to take over a commercial broadcast station, that's a pretty significant weakness.

      If the receiver required some kind of crypto-key in a sideband or sub-channel, at least they could automatically shut down broadcast when they've been pwned. It sounds funny, but if a few dozen people got together and took over greater London

      • I don't think a War of the Worlds thing would be as effective today, simply because people can check other media outlets easier than back then when you had to physically get up and manually change the station.
  • why is he a hacker? This is just transmitting FM with a not so regulatory amp? If he would hack the digital feed in their studio he would be a hacker but now he's just a guy who bought some equipment and dialed in a radio station frequency and is driving around the city. Hacking my ass. But he still gets points for style, execution and repetition!

  • Not a hack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:49PM (#54797231)

    This is just an old fashioned pirate radio.

    • No they aren't transmitting to an audience using their own equipment. They are taking over an uplink and knocking a radio station offline in the process. Quite a bit different.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:54PM (#54797277)

    I've never heard so many cries of "Well, I never!" There were bodies lying prostrate on fainting couches all about the city! The horror!

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:57PM (#54797301)

    It will be awhile, but if the pirate continues doing this, they will find him and grind them into dust.

    Most people don't realize that the BEST jokes are the ones that happen only a few times and when the jokester does it enough to be noticed but stops before they get caught.

    Some of my best pranks are ones I only did a few times with long intervals in between. The best being an E-mail prank that I only pulled twice in 3 years and nobody suspected that it was me until a decade later after I told the Sys Admin staff the secret on my last day so they could fix the hole. I still remember the crazy searching for the perpetrator and the hand wringing memos from embarrassed management types getting posted on the bulletin boards in the break room....

    Then there was the changing of the channels in the cafeteria TV's that just mysteriously happened even though they where out of reach and the remote controls locked up in the boss' office...I did that one a couple of times a week, using an IR recording/playback device, for a month, stopped when the Boss set up a surveillance camera, then did it every few weeks once the camera disappeared. I'm sure it drove him crazy because he was complaining about it in public... Not sure if he caught on to me after I left there or not, but I got really tired of CNN only on the TV's at lunch.

    • by ve3oat ( 884827 )
      I love it! You're a hero!
    • Blast from the past. We used to the same thing at parties. Once you knew the TV band we'd find a remote, bring it to the party and change the channel. When the host would change it back as soon as they turned around we'd switch it again. After a few times they'd be convinced their turning around caused the remote to malfunction. They'd slowly back away and hilarity ensued. Tip of the hat to you.
    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      It will be awhile, but if the pirate continues doing this, they will find him and grind them into dust.

      This isn't the US. They'd fine him a few £100, confiscate his gear. Suspended sentence if he's really unlucky.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        "Ofcom said maliciously causing radio interference was a criminal offence carrying a potential sentence of two years in prison and an unlimited fine."

        • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

          "Ofcom said maliciously causing radio interference was a criminal offence carrying a potential sentence of two years in prison and an unlimited fine."

          I refuse to play the maximum sentence game.

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )

      In the late 90s I was studying aerospace engineering and we had to take Fortran90. In the lab we had a TA (teaching assistant) doing the lessons. A friend an I used the "net send" command to send random messages that would pop-up on the projector as he was showing his screen. Poor guy had no idea what was happening.

      After disrupting the class for most of the 2 hour lab, we decided not to do it again in future classes because we expected the TA to be prepared to figure out who was doing it.

  • Priorities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blythe Bowman ( 4372095 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @07:39PM (#54797491)
    You know what is even more obscene? Parents getting upset over this instead of bands of kids setting sleeping homeless men and women on fire for the thrill of it, something that happens in both the US and the UK
    • You know what is even more obscene? Parents getting upset over this instead of bands of kids setting sleeping homeless men and women on fire for the thrill of it

      Setting fire to people is not "obscene", it is "wicked". To use "obscene" is a wrong use of the word.

      Anyway, are you suggesting that we should not be concerned about anything less than kids setting fire to people? Then I take it you never bother to wash up your plates.

  • by Blythe Bowman ( 4372095 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @07:48PM (#54797533)
    I imagine they were able to pull that one by sending their own, more powerful microwave signal to the remote broadcast tower that most TV stations used. The FM capture effect (analog TV video used a variant of AM with the audio being FM for normal broadcast, but I am sure the station to tower mw link was all FM), helped insure a complete takeover of the broadcast tower.
  • a hack? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pax681 ( 1002592 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @09:37PM (#54798073)

    Ofcom and radio station officials believe the hacker is using a mobile radio transmitter to broadcast a stronger signal on the radio station's normal frequency, overriding its normal program. In eight different occasions, the hacker has taken over broadcasts and has been heard talking, screaming, or singing, and then playing "The Winker's Song"

    a mobile transmitter... sounds like ge's got himself a CB radio with sidebands (illegal in the UK) which can hit the FM spectrum allocated to radio stations. then plug that little fucker into a linear amplifier(even 100watts will blast the shit out that station) and the antenna of your choice depending on how immediately mobile you feel you need to be.
    As I recall you go onto the am bands and then hit the "high button".. and that takes you into FM where you can pick a station or an empty space to broadcast over/on. My cousin and i used to do something like that except we'd broadcast in vacant parts of the radio frequency and always from a different location.... mind you that was in the 80's and long before we got out Full RAE exams passed and became licensed radio amateurs.. way back when an MM0 *** call sign was shiny and new.

    • Re:a hack? (Score:4, Informative)

      by CRC'99 ( 96526 ) on Thursday July 13, 2017 @03:06AM (#54799053) Homepage

      a mobile transmitter... sounds like ge's got himself a CB radio with sidebands (illegal in the UK) which can hit the FM spectrum allocated to radio stations

      What CB radios do you guys have that'll do 230Khz wide signals in 88-108MHz? Certainly can't get this with a 27MHz CB....

      • by Pax681 ( 1002592 )
        illegal ones such as the NATO 2000 sidebander that are made outside the 27/81 spec.
      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        It doesn't need to perform to broadcast standards to get (relatively crappy) audio picked up by a standard receiver. Dispense with stereo, that'll save you the upper subcarrier. Undermodulate and you should just lose signal-to-noise ratio, and lower volume (on radios lacking automatic gain -- who uses those anymore?).

    • A 27Mhz CB has no chance of transmitting in the FM broadcast band without a transverter. And even then the frequency stability would be so bad it wouldn't be able to interfere effectively with a 103 Mhz signal- outside of maybe some weird QRM. Additionally, to jam a station with 1000W and an elevated antenna- you would need maybe 3 kilowatts. Even then the jamming would be localized.

      But 3 kilowatts out of a car? Unlikely.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      Wouldn't it just be easier to convince an off-the-shelf Yaesu or Icom that it's actually allowed to transmit between 88 and 108 MHz by fiddling with the ROM? The only reason they won't is because they've been told not to, at the factory. If it can do 6 meters and 2 meters, it'll damn well do the FM broadcast band (with suitable antenna).

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