5 'Secure' Places That Are Shockingly Easy to Break Into

#2. Stealing Zoo Animals


Generally speaking, zoos shouldn't need much more security beyond the moats, pits, and fences that keep the animals from escaping for a wacky animated adventure or the spirited mauling of a cab full of tourists. Anyone who climbs beyond all of those safety measures is asking to be eaten by a bear, and the world is a better place without them. Unless, of course, they are climbing in to steal the animals, which is apparently a thing that people do.

"Hey, Carl ... ditch the fish, looks like we're having Italian."

Because, it turns out, zoo animal theft is an incredibly popular pastime, with the number of animals stolen every year currently on the rise. In 2000, 16 lion cubs were stolen from a zoo in Indonesia. That same year, a couple of teenagers stole two koalas from the San Francisco Zoo by dropping in through an open skylight, Mission: Impossible-style. Five zoos in England lost more than 200 animals to thieves in 2006 alone, which was the year Big Momma's House 2 and Miami Vice came out, so the type of tense boredom that breeds daring zoo capers was understandably at an all-time high.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
It was like the Planet of the Apes and Pearl Harbor crime sprees of '01 all over again.

Obviously, the animals that are most often targeted are small exotic birds, primates, and reptiles, because they can be tossed in a duffel bag and carried off with relative ease -- trying to Ocean's Eleven a full-grown rhinoceros using nothing but the cover of darkness and an old Chevrolet hatchback would be a substantially taller task. The stolen animals are then sold for ludicrous amounts of money to eccentric rich people looking to build private menageries and/or make a pair of boots out of every endangered species on the planet.

Occasionally break-ins are staged by people who aren't necessarily looking to steal any of the animals, but instead want to release them or simply open their cages in the hopes that the animals will run away and be free. Recently, a man broke into a zoo in Florida and cut the locks on virtually every cage they had in an attempt to liberate the imprisoned beasts. However, his rescue attempt was largely unsuccessful, since most of the animals had long since grown used to their artificial habitats, didn't realize their cages were unlocked, and had no particular desire to go anywhere else in Florida.

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"It's Florida. I'm safer in here."

Unsurprisingly, some zoo thefts are perpetrated by crazy people for no real reason. A man in Montana broke into a petting zoo and stole one of their animals, a pygmy goat named Shirley. He then inexplicably brought Shirley with him to a bar, where somebody took note of the obvious crime that had taken place and notified the police. Animal Control came to pick Shirley up and take her back to the zoo, despite her insistence that she was totally OK to drive.

#1. Acquiring Security Secrets of Businesses

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Unsurprisingly, major corporations put an intense amount of effort into keeping their top-level information secure (their systems are also routinely attacked by the Chinese army). Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs depend on that information remaining vigilantly guarded at all times. Additionally, any employees privy to that information are tasked with keeping it totally secret. Unless, of course, a complete stranger calls them on the telephone, at which point they will happily divulge whatever sensitive information is asked. Because hey, manners.

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"He said 'Pretty please.' What did you expect me to do?"

At the 2010 DEF CON event (an annual convention for hackers), attendees participated in a "game" wherein they would cold-call employees at several major corporations and attempt to get sensitive information out of them as quickly as possible using nothing but basic conversational skills. There wasn't a massive data-thieving plot behind the game -- it was done simply to see how much people would willingly reveal if they were asked. Incredibly, virtually every single company targeted by the DEF CON participants gave away some bit of sensitive information that could be used against them in a cyberattack.

Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images
"Our firewall password? Oh, we don't even have those."

And these were serious companies -- Apple, Microsoft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and BP all spilled the beans on things that they definitely shouldn't have. This is even more incredible when you consider that the sort of person who attends a DEF CON event is generally terrible at any kind of human interaction that isn't typed out on a screen.

In defense of the targets, the types of questions they were asked would probably seem innocuous to anyone without a good knowledge of the exhausting list of ways that a computer system can be hacked. The DEF CON players would ask things like "Where are your dumpsters located?" (dumpster diving is one of the best ways to collect passwords and other sensitive codes and numbers) and "What version of Adobe do you use?" (knowing the version of a trusted program can help hackers craft a convincing Trojan or similar virus). That being said, these questions would have to seem suspiciously random, if nothing else ("Who was that? Oh, just some guy asking about our dumpsters. Probably a very polite hobo.")

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"An e-Trasho-line 6200?!? Papa's sleeping in style tonight!"

So ultimately, it doesn't matter how state-of-the-art your security measures are or how many hackers you employ to protect your mainframe -- the whole system will always be thwarted by the fact that people will tell strangers whatever they want to know as long as it gets them off the phone.

Kathy wrote a very funny book called Funerals to Die For, and you can buy it here and here. Or check out your other favorite Cracked writer M. Asher Cantrell's upcoming book on WORD records right here.

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