John Deere tractor owners allegedly use hacked Ukrainian firmware for repairs

john deere tractor hacks ukrainian 8400
An unexpected market for hacked software appears to be thriving. American farmers who own John Deere tractors are getting around what they view as an overly restrictive software licensing agreement they were required sign in October, according to Motherboard.

Rather than rely on and wait for authorized company representatives to make expensive farm calls, some tractor owners resort to calling local “technicians” who allegedly use hacked firmware they bought from Ukrainian sources to make the repairs.

We’ve written about the issue of vehicle software ownership before. Like John Deere, General Motors and other automakers also claim they own the software and owners cannot sell it or alter it in any manner.

For farmers in Nebraska, however, the issues with the mandatory John Deere license are time and money. The crops can’t wait.

“When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Nebraska hog farmer Danny Kluthe testified to the state legislature. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

Kevin Kenney, another Nebraska farmer told Motherboard, “If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it. You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic — he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can’t drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part.”

“What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market,” Kenney continued.

Both Kenney and Kluthe are advocating right-to-repair legislation in Nebraska. The law would invalidate the John Deere software agreement. John Deere is a strong opponent of the proposed Nebraska legislation and similar bills being considered in seven other states.

When Motherboard asked John Deere about the Ukrainian firmware hacks, which are sold via online forums, the company replied that there was no problem.

“When a customer buys John Deere equipment, he or she owns the equipment,” the company said. “As the owner, he or she has the ability to maintain and repair the equipment. The customer also has the ability through operator and service manuals and other resources to enable operational, maintenance, service and diagnostics activities to repair and maintain equipment.

“Software modifications increase the risk that equipment will not function as designed,” the company continued. “As a result, allowing unqualified individuals to modify equipment software can endanger machine performance, in addition to Deere customers, dealers and others, resulting in equipment that no longer complies with industry and safety/environmental regulations.”

According to Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org, a Nebraska trade organization in favor of the right-to-repair legislation, however, “Some of our members have repeatedly attempted to buy the diagnostics that are referenced [from John Deere] and been rebuffed.”

Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Computing

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement, or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.
Mobile

Apple will fix these iPhone X, 13-inch MacBook Pro issues for free

Apple launched free repair programs for the iPhone X and 13-inch MacBook Pro with no Touch Bar. Some iPhone X units are suffering from unresponsive touchscreens, while a specific batch of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is prone to drive failure.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Cars

The DBX SUV will go where no Aston Martin has gone before

When it launches in 2019, the Aston Martin DBX will be the British automaker's first SUV. In the meantime, camouflaged DBX prototypes will undergo strenuous testing around the world.
Cars

Ford teams up with Walmart to study consumer response to autonomous delivery

Last week it was Ford and VW, and this week Ford and Walmart are signaling a desire to work together on autonomous vehicles solutions. Ford and the giant retailer will study consumer reactions to self-driving delivery vehicles.
Cars

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.
Cars

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.
Cars

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.
Cars

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.
DT Daily

DT Daily: Waymo’s driverless cars, ‘Fallout 76’ tips, and Racella

In today's episode of DT Daily, we discuss Waymo's foray into the ridesharing sector, along with various tips for making the most of the recently launched Fallout 76. We also sit down with singer Racella to chat about her new EP, Waves.
Cars

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.
Cars

Many adults believe fully self-driving cars are already traversing U.S. highways

The American Automobile Association tested cars with features such as lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control and found them lacking in real-world conditions. Forty percent of surveyed U.S. adults think self-driving cars exist now.