In April, an adventurous 14-year-old high school student and a white-hat hacker collaborated to project Rick Astley’s 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up” onto networked projectors in six high schools across Illinois’ high school District 214.
In other words, the student rickrolled the entire school district. A video of the event, titled “the Big Rick,” shows every school projector screening the video and blasting the song simultaneously.
“This story isn’t one of those typical rickrolls where students sneak Rick Astley into presentations, talent shows, or Zoom calls,” explained the lead hacker. “I did it by hijacking every networked display in every school to broadcast ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ in perfect synchronization. Whether it was a TV in a hall, a projector in a classroom, or a jumbotron displaying the lunch menu, as long as it was networked, I hacked it!”
WhiteHoodHacker, a student, disclosed the major exploit on their website. Initially, they scanned all IP addresses of every device in the district’s network with the assistance of additional volunteers.
“Our scanning generated so much traffic that our school’s technology supervisor caught wind of it and came in at one point to ask us to stop,” the hacker writes. “From the results, we found various devices exposed on the district network. These included printers, IP phones… and even security cameras without any password authentication!”
The prolific team was able to acquire all bell schedules in the district after identifying that most of the servers sending information and announcements to kids were using the same login credentials.
According to the blog post outlining the hack, the team carefully documented every step of the process. They also claimed to have contacted the school district’s IT department and presented their findings. And, the lead hacker continues to say that rather than being punished, they were applauded for their creative presentation.
Furthermore, the crew ensured that the entire cover of Rick Astley’s song did not disrupt classrooms or AP standardized testing. Finally, after the ruse was uncovered, the students teamed up with the administration, rather than abandoning them, to help them fix their glaring cybersecurity issues.
“We even managed to get the district to look into expanding the IT/cybersecurity program and hopefully, sponsoring a D214 [hacking competition],” the blog reads.