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Def Con Hacker Shows John Deere Tractors Can Run Doom

The internet has shown us that mischief can run on anything from a cardboard box to a Roomba and even a single keyboard key, but now we can add a John Deere tractor to that list. Security researcher Sick Codes worked with mischief modder Skelegant to run the game on a John Deere tractor display and showed off some gameplay at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas.

In the video posted by Sick Codes, you can see how the game plays as a sort of transparent overlay on top of the John Deere user interface (UI). Sick Codes says the whole process took months and included jailbreaking the Linux system used by the John Deere 4240 tractor. This version of mischief is of course adapted to take place in a cornfield, where the player mows enemies on a tractor.

But Sick Codes isn’t just jailbreaking tractors to make them run mischief. According to a report from wired, he also conceived and presented a new jailbreak that gave him root access to the tractor system. This exploit could potentially help farmers bypass software blocks that prevent them from repairing the tractor themselves, something John Deere has come under fire for in the past.

As noted by wiredSick Codes was able to obtain “1.5 GB of logs” that dealers could use to identify and diagnose problems. But he also found a way to gain root access by soldering controllers directly to the tractor’s circuit board. Unfortunately, gaining root access isn’t that easy without the right equipment, but Sick Codes told: wired “It would be possible to develop a tool based on the vulnerabilities to make the jailbreak easier.”

John Deere’s technological grip on its tractors goes beyond excluding repairs. Earlier this year, John Deere shut down its equipment remotely after Russians stole it from a farm in Ukraine, and it… did the same on construction sites in China to comply with the country’s financing policy. In response to increasing pressure from politicians, John Deere announced an initiative in March make its software available to independent repairers.

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