High Tech

Def Con hacker shows John Deere’s tractors can run Doom

The internet has shown us that Doom can run on everything 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 Doom modder Skelegant to get the game running 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 involved jailbreaking the Linux system used by the John Deere 4240 tractor. This version of Doom has, naturally, been modified to take place in a corn field, where the player mows down enemies on a tractor.

But Sick Codes isn’t just jailbreaking tractors to get them to run Doom. According to a report from Wired, he also devised and presented a new jailbreak that gave him root access to the tractor’s 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 Wired, Sick Codes was able to obtain “1.5 GB worth 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 all that simple without the right equipment, but Sick Codes told Wired “it would be possible to develop a tool based on the vulnerabilities to more easily execute the jailbreak.”

John Deere’s technological grip on its tractors goes beyond barring repairs. Earlier this year, John Deere remotely locked its equipment after Russians stole it from a farm in Ukraine, and it has done the same on construction sites in China to comply with the country’s financing policies. In response to increasing pressure from politicians, John Deere announced an initiative in March to make its software available to independent repair shops.




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