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Prankster broadcasts message to WSU students

Masked prankster delivers bizarre rant in video broadcast to students via hacked computer system.

Washington State University police are trying to find out who hijacked the school's computer system on Friday and broadcast on classroom video screens throughout the day a bizarre rant by someone wearing a "V for Vendetta" costume.

The hacker took over the large video screens in 34 classrooms in two buildings on the Pullman, Wash., campus, Tom Ambrosi, WSU chief information security officer, told CNET today. "They played the video once an hour throughout the day," until campus employees managed to shut it off shortly before 5 p.m. PT.

"I can't say how they got in," Ambrosi said, adding that his office turned over evidence to the campus police. "We don't know who is responsible. We are investigating."

The video duplicates a scene in the movie "V for Vendetta" in which a masked vigilante broadcasts his antigovernment message on British television. The WSU incident took place on November 5, which was Guy Fawkes Night, named in honor of a conspirator in a plot to assassinate King James I and blow up the UK Houses of Parliament in 1605.

In the nearly-four-minute-long video, the masked person complains about a campus overrun by squirrels "who enter without ambitions and with no outward enthusiasm for the fantastic academic culture that this University might otherwise have." He also chastises the school for lax information technology security practices.

A blog post on a Web site dedicated to the prank is a bit more lucid: "University officials, it's time to clean up your act. Listen to your students once in a while. Some of them know what they're talking about. And students, stop being so apathetic. When you hear or see something that troubles you make your opinion known. Do something about it. Don't just sit around and play video games or check your Facebook status."

Ambrosi did not seem overly concerned. "It was a disruption in those classrooms," he said. "But we don't think there was anything beyond that."