By Karissa Blackburn
RED JACKET - Roger Hardesty says he may be old, but he isn’t crazy. However, the things he and his brother, Walter, have endured over the past few days can definitely be characterized as strange.
The brothers, who live at Red Jacket, claim that someone has hacked into Walter’s DirecTV box and is wreaking havoc; at least, that is the only logical explanation for what is happening.
It all started Monday night when Walter was watching television in his living room on the main DirecTV box. Roger says the TV was acting up, redirecting automatically to the search screen. At one point, Walter’s grandson said he wanted to watch “Full House,” and the receiver automatically switched to the correct channel.
Things really started getting stranger on Tuesday morning.
Although Roger, 68, says they joked about things at first, before too long it began to feel like their privacy was invaded and hey began to fear for their lives.
“[Before I went down to see what was going on,] Walter told his wife, Shirley, that he was going to sleep with a gun that night because this thing was scaring him,” Roger said. “That thing typed, ‘It won’t do ya any good, Walter. I’ve got a rifle. I can shoot your brains out at any time.’”
The hacker was using a DirecTV feature known as the search page to make conversation with the family.
When Roger arrived at his brother’s house, the device began a conversation with him immediately.
“As soon as I walked in the door, he typed, ‘Hi, Roger. Nice green shirt,’” Roger said.
The Hardestys suspect the perpetrator is someone close who lives in the neighborhood because the hacker also knew the make and color of Roger’s truck, which was parked in his brother-in-law’s driveway, one house down from Walter’s.
“There has to be a camera in there,” Roger said. “Some of the things he told us, he could have only known with a camera in the room. Like Walter held up a bag of apples and asked him what they were. He replied ‘apples’. And my nephew came in with his mining clothes on; I asked him what my nephew was wearing. He typed ‘miner.’”
Roger said at one point he covered the area where the assumed camera is located with a pillow, and the hacker couldn’t see to answer any of their questions. However, the hacker did hack into the box located in the bedroom saying he or she hated Roger and would kill him.
Roger said the hacker has threatened four people’s lives.
“My grandson stays with me a lot,” Roger said. “And here we have this idiot threatening to kill me and my wife. That’s scary.”
Roger has reported the incident to as many authorities as would listen to him, calling the West Virginia State Police, the Federal Communications Commission and even the FBI. He claims that while he was talking to the FBI, the hacker typed “FBI” on the screen to let them know he or she knew what was happening.
The state police came out to investigate the incident, and Trooper Lively admits they witnessed the hacker at work.
“It’s still under investigation,” Lively said. “We aren’t sure at this time if it is a criminal matter or if it is just a mix-up. Someone logged into the wrong box. But we’re in contact with the Mingo County Prosecutor’s Office at the time to see what actions they want to take.”
While talking to representatives from both DirecTV and Vizio (the television company), Roger said the companies claimed they do not place cameras inside their products.
“There isn’t much that scares me,” Roger said, “but this has absolutely scared me to death. Thinking that someone could put a camera in your house and listen to every word you say, watch every move you make … ”
Roger said he has been contacted by the prosecutor’s office, who told him that the state police are coming to confiscate the box and the television. They will both be taken to Huntington for further investigation. Legal action will be taken if a camera is found in either piece of equipment.