Early morning motorists got a shock yesterday when digital car park signs were tampered with by computer hackers and were left displaying an obscene message.

The message appeared on all similar signs around Crawley at about 6.45am.

Thousands of motorists travelling into the town would have been subjected to the unsavoury advice.

The signs normally display the number of spaces available in the town's car parks and were installed about four years ago.

A spokeswoman for Crawley Borough Council said the authority had received no complaints from the public, just calls advising them what had happened.

She said: "It is disappointing someone would do this.

"The car park information system was hacked into.

"Crawley Borough Council officers took immediate action to remove the offensive words when this was brought to their attention.

"The system and network are not the council's and are maintained by a contractor. Measures have now been put in place to prevent any further attacks.

"Our apologies for any offence or distress caused.

"Nowhere is foolproof - if hackers can get into Pentagon computers then I am sure they would have no problem with ours."

Four car parks in Crawley are owned by Crawley Borough Council and six by NPC.

Crawley councillor Brenda Burgess said: "It shocks me that someone can do that and I will certainly be talking to people to find out what exactly went on.

"I am sure people would understand that if it happened in the morning it would be dealt with as soon as possible."

One motorist who saw one of the signs said: "It was quite a shock. I suppose some people might find it offensive but you have to look at the funny side.

"I just hope it didn't cost too much of tax payers' money to put it right.

"Computer hacking is frightening. It just shows it can happen to anyone these days."