Disgruntled Employee Hacks 100 Vehicle Computers

Dennis Faas's picture

Here at Infopackets, we sometimes talk about hackers' drive-by attacks, and invasions of unsuspecting victims' PCs via unauthorized download. However, it's very rare that a case presents itself whereby the hacker's conduct has an impact on actual driving.

And yet, that was the situation in Austin, Texas, where over 100 vehicles were recently disabled by a dealership's disgruntled former employee.

Automobile Hacker Causes Headaches for Car Owners

Recently, Austin residents who'd purchased vehicles at the local Texas Auto Center started experiencing strange issues with their cars. Some started honking -- and wouldn't stop all night long. Others found that the leases for their vehicles had been temporarily transferred to long-dead rap star Tupac Shakur. Others found that their vehicles simply wouldn't start at all.

The culprit was 20-year-old Oscar Ramos-Lopez, a former employee of Texas Auto Center who decided to take out his frustration by hacking the company's remote vehicle mobilization system. The technology is powered by Cleveland's Pay Technologies (or PayTeck), and is intended to help enforce lease payments by shutting down the vehicles of deadbeats. A small black box located underneath the car's dashboard relays information to and from a central web site. (Source: pcmag.com)

Unfortunately for car buyers, Texas Auto Center was not particularly guarded about the passwords for its PayTeck system. Ramos-Lopez was able to easily access the system by using the ID and password of another employee, and wreak havoc on completely dumbfounded car owners. In the wake of this mess, Texas Auto Center has promised it will be more careful of such passwords in the future.

Police Use PayTeck Records, IP Address to Nab Hacker

It took some time for Austin police to nab Ramos-Lopez. Eventually, they were able to match the suspect's Internet Protocol (IP) address with PayTeck's login records. (Source: pcworld.com)

It's not clear right now how Ramos-Lopez lost his job or why he was so angry with Texas Auto Center -- but it's a safe bet he won't soon be buying a vehicle there, or anywhere, for a while.

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