While Halloween horror stories are often thought of as the realm of the supernatural technology can also provide its own set of horrors that can send chills down the spines of even the most rational techies.
With how complicated and, at times, mysterious modern technologies can be, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that it can seemingly create situations that can be creepy or even downright frightening. The development of the internet, social media and advanced AI has just made the realm of technology even more ripe for these stories.
To celebrate the creepy holidays, we’ve put up a list of some of the creepier tech horror stories from around the internet. To make things a bit more interesting, we’ve avoided some of the more common tech horror stories such as the Y2K bug, Windows Vista. Instead, we tried our best to go for some of the more unique, and in one case, generally scary, stories.
Without further ado, here are our top tech horror stories.
1. The house that went haywire
You’d think that a house outfitted with the latest smart appliances and internet of things (IOT) technology would be the furthest thing form your stereotypical haunted house. Well, that’s where you’re wrong.
In 2009, Raul Rojas, a computer science professor at the Free University of Berlin, built one of the first “smart homes” in Germany. Everything in the home, from the lights, the tv, heating and cooling could be turned on or off from Rojas’ computer.
For all its high tech promise, however, Rojas’s smart home actually ended up turning against him. One day, two years after having built it, his house just stopped listening to him.
“Nothing worked. I couldn’t turn the lights on or off. It got stuck,” he says.
With no warning, Rojas found himself in the high tech version of the classic horror movie ghost house where everything just stops working. Luckily, Rojas was able to use figure out the cause of the issue: a light bulb.
One of the smart lightbulb’s Rojas had installed had burned out and it was now constantly spamming the network with messages asking to be replaced—effectively launching a DDoS attack on Rojas’s home.
2. The laptop lost in the sky
While Rojas’s story is a cute story of tech going wrong that didn’t lead to any serious consequences—the culprit was a panicking smart lightbulb after all—this next story is bit more sinister.
In 2007, a laptop owned by Boeing, one with the personal data of around 12,000 employees, went missing on a flight. Despite the loss of the laptop and all its data, Boeing didn’t tell anyone about it, thinking that the data wouldn’t be compromised. They thought wrong
Soon, reports started coming in of former Boeing employees having their credentials used for criminal purposes. One former employee found that a criminal had used their social security number to apply for credit across the U.S.A. Most of those applications were rejected and, as such, his credit score was significantly lowered as a result.
To fix this, the former employee spent months on the phone dealing with customer service. He had to convince call center operators of who he was and that he did not live in Florida or Minnesota.
Eventually, credit card companies put a fraud alert on his stolen information. This prevented criminals from trying to use his information to open new credit card accounts. That said, it still kept the man from opening up a bank account.
As for the missing laptop? It’s still missing to this day.
3. The yacht that was hacked
Getting hacked is a scary enough occurrence. Without warning, someone somewhere is able to take control of your information, locking you out of parts of your digital life. Imagine then if it was a moving vehicle you were on that was hacked. While this may have sounded far fetched just a decade ago, the advent of high satellite navigation and increased vehicular autonomy has now made this a terrifying reality.
In June of 2013, the 65-meter super luxury yacht the White Rose of Drachts started to drift starboard while off the coast of Italy. The$80 million vessel had inexorably yielded its GPS-determined course until it was under the complete control of hijackers.
Despite this, no alarms went off. As far as the ship’s GPS navigation system was concerned, the signals it was receiving were authentic. Once the navigation system had detected a discrepancy, it immediately alerted the crew, who initiated a course correction.
Except the signals were not authentic and the ship was not on course. Instead, it was being fed fake signals by a team of hackers until it was effectively under their control.
The plot twist here is that the hijackers were on the boat and were actually invited on board. Instead of pirates or terrorists, they were actually a pair of engineering students. That said, the entire exercise was meant to that the threat of this kind of hijacking is real.
4. The mysterious death of an ethical hacker
For this final story, we have to add a warning as it does involve an actual death.
In July of 2013, ethical hacker Barnaby Jack was supposed to give a keynote at that year’s Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Jack was a well-known hacker within the community. At the 2011 Black Hat, he made waves when he hacked a pair of ATM machines on stage, remotely making them rain money—albeit fake money—showing just how vulnerable they were. Later, he hacked an insulin pump, showing the audience how such devices could remotely be used to inject lethal doses of insulin without the victim ever knowing.
The buzz around his 2013 keynote was enormous as Jack was supposed to blow the roof something security-related. Rumors had it that he was going to demonstrate how hackers could assassinate someone by hacking an implanted pacemaker.
The presentation, however, never happened. Six days before it was supposed to happen, Jack was found dead in his San Francisco apartment.
While Jack’s death was eventually ruled as having been from an overdose from a combination of heroin, cocaine, Xanax, and Benadryl. That said, the timing of his death fuels conspiracy theories to this day. Did Jack really die from a a drug binge, or was there a more sinister reason for his death. We’ll likely never know.