Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hacking your way to freedom, farmer style.

This is just unbelievable, on a bunch of levels.

To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

"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," Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. "Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix]."

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn't be anything a farmer could do about it.

You call that a nightmare? How about this: somebody else who isn't John Deere could shut down -every- tractor. Maybe the local government, maybe the state or federal government, or maybe plain old criminals. Hold the whole state of Nebraska to ransom at harvest time? They could do it!

On a plain old corporate level, every farmer who had to sign that contract is now looking at John Deere's competition for an alternative, because JD just pissed him off. This is what happens when sociopaths get into a company's management. They see the customer as a sheep to be sheared, and they trim as close as they can.

On a societal level, this is a thing we cannot allow. You are not leasing your house and everything in it, you -own- it. It belongs to you. Those two words, "own" and "belong" are the basis of Western civilization. Nobody is going to buy a tractor or a car, for tens of thousands of dollars, and then meekly accept that they have to keep paying the company so they won't turn the thing off. You buy it, you own it.

Except as we know, there's a huge push from Big Corporate and Silicon Valley to make this leasing model the new reality. They want Ford to retain ownership of your new Mustang, and prevent you from repairing or modifying it outside their dealer network.

Keep your eyes open for this, coming soon to consumer appliances in your house. Annual fee to keep your Smart Fridge going. You will be seeing this soon.

The Phantom Cassandra

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