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Crazy reason American farmers are hacking their tractors with Russian firmware

Crazy reason American farmers are hacking their tractors with Russian firmware
© Taina Sohlman | Dreamstime.com

We're constantly telling you how technology is improving our lives. There has even been wonderful innovations in areas you would never imagine, like out on the farm.

You might be surprised to find out just how high-tech some farm equipment is nowadays. However, some of this tech is causing major headaches for the everyday farmer, forcing them to look to the black market for answers.

Why farmers are turning to the black market

What we're talking about is a restrictive software licensing agreement that John Deere is requiring customers to sign when purchasing one of its tractors. The agreement deals with embedded software that forces a tractor owner to get repairs done with an authorized John Deere service tech. This is causing problems for farmers who live miles and miles away from an authorized shop.

If the farmer has a part installed by an unauthorized technician, the tractor won't work because of the embedded software. A John Deere tech must plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part before the tractor will be operational again. This procedure can cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention time wasted waiting for the tech to arrive.

Farmers believe this is a violation of their rights. Since they own the equipment, they believe they should have the right to get it fixed at the place of their choosing. Another fear is that Deere could shut equipment down remotely and the farmer would have no way of getting it back online.

Some have found a way around this nuisance. Local, unauthorized technicians are buying "cracked" John Deere software from Eastern European countries on the black market. This allows them to make repairs to the equipment without needing the John Deere tech's authorization.

Using black market software could lead to all kinds of other problems. Can you really trust black market software? Plus, if you use cracked firmware and something goes wrong you've lost any right to pursue John Deere for compensation, as you've broken the licensing agreement.

Nebraska farmers are trying to convince local politicians to pass right-to-repair legislation. The law would make the licensing agreement invalid. There are similar bills being considered in seven other states across the country.

John Deere, on the other hand, believes it's important to have its equipment maintained by authorized techs. If unauthorized technicians modify software, it could lead to the equipment not performing properly.

This is a tricky subject to navigate. On the one hand, farmers seem correct with the idea that owning a piece of equipment should give them the right to use the technician of their choice. On the flip side, Deere's view that an unauthorized tech making repairs could cause more problems seems like a fair point.

What do you think? Should the consumer be able to have repairs done anywhere? Leave a comment and tells us your thoughts.

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Source: Motherboard
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