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Disgruntled Ex-Employee Remotely Disables 100 Cars 384

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-think-I-saw-this-movie dept.
hansamurai writes "Over one hundred cars equipped with a Webtech Plus blackbox were remotely disabled when a former employee of dealership Texas Auto Center got hold of his employer's database of users. Webtech Plus is repossession software that allows the dealership to disable a car's ignition or trigger the horn to honk when a payment is due. Owners had to remove the battery to stop the incessant honking. After the dealership began fielding an unusually high number of calls from upset car owners, they changed the passwords to the Webtech Plus software and then traced the IP address used to access the client to its former employee."

*

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Disgruntled Ex-Employee Remotely Disables 100 Cars

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  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:39PM (#31517064)

    Can someone explain this article to me using a car analogy?

    • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:48PM (#31517160) Journal

      Can someone explain this article to me using a car analogy?

      Sure. You don't qualify for a car loan, but they'll sell you a car, with a 5% per month interest rate, all sorts of fees, and a "you pass by the office by such-and-such a date with the cash or we kill your car" deal. Lots of cash income, much of it undeclared by the dealer, since the financing is not reported to credit rating agencies (it's called "in house financing" for a reason :-)

      The car analogy? It's like getting a sh*tty deal on a sh*tty car.

      • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:54PM (#31517206)

        To be fair, there are plenty of used car dealers who don't overcharge but do sell to not-terribly-reliable clients. They need a way to get their vehicle back when those clients quit paying.

        • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:07PM (#31517332) Journal

          To be fair, there are plenty of used car dealers who don't overcharge but do sell to not-terribly-reliable clients. They need a way to get their vehicle back when those clients quit paying.

          Here, let me fix that for you:

          "To be fair, there are plenty of used car dealers who overcharge when they sell not-terribly-reliable cars to not-terribly-reliable clients. They need a way to get their vehicle back when those clients quit paying so they can flip them to the next sucker."

          40% or more a year interest, extra fees, inflated "deposits" that are inevitably forfeited as soon as the sucker is one day late, the car repoed and the customer STILL owes the full amount as damages, "it's not a sale, it's a lease - at the end you can buy it for $100.00" - when at the end it's $100 + fees.

          It's the auto equivalent of pay-day loans.

          • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:38PM (#31517546)
            Yet those things have their place too, and they allow the worst of the deadbeats to somehow get a car. After all, it's not like getting a regular car loan from a reputable dealer is particularly difficult. I have a friend who works part time in a $12/hr job, has terrible credit history and no assets worth mentioning and she just got financing for a small used car from Carmax with an interest rate of 16%. People who have to get the deals like you mentioned are the ones that nobody in their right mind would loan money to except under those conditions. If they are being harsher than necessary on their customers then somebody (why not you?) will step in and be a slightly less harsh and take all the business.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by plover (150551) *

              Why? Do the "worst of the deadbeats" somehow still deserve credit? Credit isn't a basic human right. For that matter, owning a car isn't a basic human right, either.

              If the deadbeats "need" a car, they really "need" to save enough money to buy one. I'm sorry about your destitute friend's situation, but I didn't extend her the credit that she defaulted on in the first place. I didn't give her the bad debt history. If she "hit a rough patch", she was already overextended when she hit it. Her creditors d

              • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:43PM (#31518018)
                If she "hit a rough patch", she was already overextended when she hit it.

                That's false. For one, about half of all bankruptcies in the US are caused by people with medical insurance who can't pay their medical bills. And another, if you want to get a divorce, just start an account and tell your partner "that's the divorce account so that I won't be overextended in case of divorce." That's only slightly worse than hiding money away without telling them what it's for.
                • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:02PM (#31518156)

                  For one, about half of all bankruptcies in the US are caused by people with medical insurance who can't pay their medical bills.

                  I used that fact on another forum, and someone countered that the amount of $$$ that the bankruptcies were for was in the order of $1000 or so. My first thought was - "bastard, shoot my argument down why don't you". Then my second thought was "Jeez, is that how little money separates the majority of people from bankruptcy. Thats really sad".

                  • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @01:09AM (#31519532) Journal

                    They were pulling numbers out of their asses. The Harvard study says it's a lot worse. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1 [healthaffairs.org]

                    Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness. Medical debtors were 42 percent more likely than other debtors to experience lapses in coverage. Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick.

                    and

                    Debtors with private insurance at the onset of their illnesses had even higher out-of-pocket costs than those with no insurance (Exhibit 5). This paradox is explained by the very high costs--$18,005--incurred by patients who initially had private insurance but lost i

                    Just look at the "out-of-pocket" expenses - and keep in mind that this doesn't include having to continue to pay insurance premiums while losing revenue because you're ill ,,, url:http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/vol0/issue2005/images/data/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1/Himmelstein_Ex5.gif?

                    • by silentcoder (1241496) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:00AM (#31520990) Homepage

                      And yet you folks still seem to honestly believe the "socialized medicine" would leave you WORSE off than you are ?

                      *shakes head sadly*

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by silentcoder (1241496)

                      And the counterpoints...
                      1) Right now America's biggest problem isn't doctors testing too much - it's too LITTLE testing. Americans don't do any preventative medicine choosing to go to the doctor only when the damage done is already severe.
                      Guess what - early detection and preventative care is not only better for saving lives, it generally costs a lot less to provide.

                      The old adage goes that "early detection of cancer means before there are serious symptoms" - how do you equate that with a system where people

                  • not really $1000 (Score:4, Interesting)

                    by Uksi (68751) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:07AM (#31521608) Homepage

                    Here's a study: http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0002-9343/PIIS0002934309004045.pdf [elsevierhealth.com] ("Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study")

                    "92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations. Three quarters had health insurance."

                    So while the medical debt is not necessarily sky-high, losing your job due to illness means that you are screwed on all your debts. Car, house, etc.

                    Also, further down: "Out-of-pocket medical costs averaged $17,943 for all medically bankrupt families" ... this means that these families successfully paid A LOT of money (~$13K) before declaring bankruptcy and ending up in an average of ~$5K of medical debt. These are not the people that ran up huge consumer debts and declared bankruptcy. These are the people that paid every bill until they just had no money left.

                • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:36AM (#31519826) Homepage

                  If -that- isn't an argument that your medical system is fundamentally FUBARed then I don't know what is.

                  It's the worlds most expensive by far, has mediocre results (compare infant mortality or any other stat you can think of to any other country that spends above half the amount you spend) AND it regularily brings families into financial ruin, families that are ALREADY facing seriuos health-problems of one of the family-members, even those who HAVE insurance. (nevermind those who don't)

                  It's COMPLETELY incomprehencible to me that anyone is willing to accept that crap. Seriously.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by ooshna (1654125)

                Anyone stupid enough to loan money to someone who has walked away from their previous debts deserves the chance to lose any money they loan that person. Usurious loans fall under that category, too.

                Must be nice to live in a perfect little world where you are the sole person that can hurt your credit. My uncle doesn't talk to my grandmother because when he was in college she got a few credit cards in his name and destroyed his credit. When he got out of college he had student loans to take care of.

              • by ePhil_One (634771) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:55PM (#31518098) Journal

                If the deadbeats "need" a car, they really "need" to save enough money to buy one

                I've bought 3 cars in my life for under $200 each, you don't "need" to buy a car on credit.

                Anyone stupid enough to loan money to someone who has walked away from their previous debts deserves the chance to lose any money they loan that person.

                And if they've loaned that money on the condition they can reclaim the car/home/kidney if the debtor stops paying, they have the right to reclaim it. I'm pretty confident those dealers aren't losing money on these loans. Its a much worse deal for the consumer than it is for the dealer, you can be sure of that

          • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:07PM (#31518196)

            You do realize that all of it is in the contract you sign up front so you know what you are spending if you bothered to read.

            Second, you won't find a contract that says you have time after the due date before they can collect the item. Every contract states clearly that the instant you are late they can start the recovery process. If you don't want them to start the recovery process, follow the rules. If you don't like the rules, don't sign the contract, its not hard.

            Just because you're used to living in a world where companies realize that most of the time its easier to float you a few days than it is to start the collection process and piss you off doesn't mean you have any sort of right or expectation that you should be able to bend the rules of the contract.

            Its funny, you think its okay for you to bend the rules, but not for them to make unfair ones.

            Thats pretty fucked up if you really sit down and think about it.

            • power imbalance (Score:4, Insightful)

              by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquar ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:29AM (#31521226) Homepage Journal

              whenever there is a power imbalance: little guy versus organization, things like desperation can move idiots to sign really stupid contracts. therefore, if the contract itself is abusive and usurious, it does not matter that you signed the contract, what matters is that one side of the contract, the one with more power, agreed to put someone in a financially abusive situation

              i can make a contract that says "if you are a day late, i get your firstborn", and some idiot will still sign that contract. because people are idiots. but the observation does not end there: evil is worse than stupid

              making abusive contracts is a form of preying on the weak and helpless and stupid. the weak and helpless and stupid must be protected by society, not because they deserve it, but because the assholes who prey on them get even more powerful, and pretty soon they're enforcing abusive terms on average intelligence folks of average means

              so for a well functioning society, you need to punish the usurious, you need to punish those who make up abusive terms. they are far far worse than complete idiots

  • So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How long until the police/feds/intelligence/etc get to start using this on civilians?

    • by MBCook (132727)

      Well, since the devices are probably not terribly cheap, they are only installed on cars from tote-the-note car lots. Since the places are a horrible scam, it shouldn't be too surprising that other... non-fun consequences... can come of the deal.

      If you get a car (new or used) from a normal dealership, they don't have this ability (unless OnStar decides to start enforcing GMAC payments).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Already in the field [autotropolis.com].

      Even better, Onstar, unlike this service, cuts across multiple demographics. Most of the people with credit so shitty that used car vendors are installing remote kill switches are probably the sort that the police already know how to "deal with", so to speak(after all, what is some overworked public defender going to do about it if they 'slip and fall' during a little friendly questioning?). Onstar, though, is a service that gives you access to the sort of people you can't just pull
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

      by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:55PM (#31517228) Journal

      How long until the police/feds/intelligence/etc get to start using this on civilians?

      They already are. See the latest OnStar commercials. If they're chasing you and you don't stop, they can either slow your car down, kill it, and/or make it start honking and flashing lights. And they can keep you locked in your car.

      They've also been caught using it to spy on people by activating the voice channel.

      Never buy a vehicle with OnStar.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        If the vehicle is otherwise a good deal, I think it is fairly straightforward to either pull the fuse or disconnect the antenna.

      • > Never buy a vehicle with OnStar.

        The system should be more or less hard-wired so that it notifies you when the microphone activates for any reason. But as a consumer, I might be willing to accept the possibility of listening in for the added level of safety. I'd be a helluvalot MORE likely to do so if they needed a warrant to listen, but even so, it's good to have an added level of redundancy in your safety systems. Keeping a cellphone, being able to get to a cell phone, the cell phone working where

        • by dontbgay (682790) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:15PM (#31518248)

          My sister is like that... Willing to remove all risk from her life and put control in the hands of other people for the safety of her kids. That's all well and good, but I don't need someone having the ability to remotely disable my automobile regardless of my distance from the person with their finger on the button. Sure, responsibility for my family is is important, but I don't need the specter of a nanny snooping in and judging me because I want to listen to some Middle Eastern music.

          Life is risk. When you shed risk, it's usually at a price.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jimicus (737525)

            My sister is like that... Willing to remove all risk from her life and put control in the hands of other people for the safety of her kids.

            You'd be amazed how many people are. "For the chillllldruuuun!!!" is one of those arguments that you just can't win because you either get painted as someone who'd understand if they had kids or someone who's sympathetic towards kiddie fiddlers, at which point any chance of a sensible discussion just goes out the window.

            It's the modern-day equivalent to witch hunting.

      • And do you have any evidence that those things have been used when the owner is driving the car (even if wanted by the police) or only when the car is reported stolen? As long as the owner (but not the car thief) has a way to both completely disable and override those 'features' when they kick in, then I don't see a huge problem with it.
        • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

          by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:16PM (#31517834)
          And do you have any evidence that those things have been used when the owner is driving the car (even if wanted by the police) or only when the car is reported stolen?

          Sure. Case in Las Vegas [subliminalnews.com]. Note that the FBI's use was not deemed illegal/inappropriate, but rather that it denied the user/owner of use during that time.
    • How long until the police/feds/intelligence/etc get to start using this on civilians?

      The technology to do this has been around for over 10 years.

  • What a maroon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:54PM (#31517214)

    If you're going to play around with your ex-employer's systems like that, you don't do it from your own home. You go interstate, to a 'net cafe, and do it from there! Sheesh. Kids these days.

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:22PM (#31517434) Homepage Journal

      Non-maroons who do stuff like this, do it from net cafes using a chain of anonymous proxys, and they do not get caught.

      It's just the maroons like this one that you hear about.

      • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:37PM (#31517976)

        Non-maroons who do stuff like this, do it from net cafes using a chain of anonymous proxys, and they do not get caught.

        It's just the maroons like this one that you hear about.

        If I was ever going to consider doing this I'd buy a cheap laptop off Craigslist for cash, and then buy a wireless card for cash from another location, and then drive to some community in the middle of nowhere and look for an open wireless AP. After which I would then pass said laptop through a shedder .. a really big shredder.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by base3 (539820)
          And make for fscking sure you weren't carrying a cell phone with a battery in it, driving a car with OnStar, or doing anything else that can put you anywhere near the location of the AP you're connecting to. Oh, and avoiding cameras would probably be good, too.
          • by OzPeter (195038)

            And make for fscking sure you weren't carrying a cell phone with a battery in it, driving a car with OnStar, or doing anything else that can put you anywhere near the location of the AP you're connecting to. Oh, and avoiding cameras would probably be good, too.

            The Cell phone battery - definitely. I've seen too many crime scene documentaries on TV (Forensic Files etc) to not do that. I'm not buying an OnStar equipped car. The cameras are harder to avoid, but I suppose you could steal the plates of a car that was the same make/model/color of yours and use them in place of your own (at least for a short time). And hopefully there are no cameras tracking your face in any neighborhood.

            Now excuse me while I talk to the nice FBI agents at my door.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      Just to be clear this Texas. Not only Texas, but central Texas. To get from Austin to a civilized area outside of Texas, i.e. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and back is going to take a person several hours. In fact, it would make more sense to leave the country and go into mexico.

      As another point, I hope that the dealership is prosecuted for this. If they are providing loans, they have sensitive data, and if they are not changing passwords when an employee is terminated, one can assume tha

      • Well, if that's Central Texas you have to drive around the block to find a neighbour who is incapable of enabling encryprion on his/her wi-fi router and do it from them.

  • Moron (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CSHARP123 (904951) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:01PM (#31517282)
    If not that job, go find another what did he achieve doing this may be getting pounding in the ass in Federal Prison. Now he cannot get anymore job anywhere.
  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:05PM (#31517308) Homepage
    I would definitely be interested in buying a car that can be triggered to shutdown or start blaring its horn remotely! Is there anyway to buy one with a built-in bomb?
  • by CODiNE (27417) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:10PM (#31517354) Homepage

    When are bosses going to learn to stop taking away their gruntles??

    • by hey! (33014) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:24AM (#31520830) Homepage Journal

      "Disgruntled" is a word with very interesting origins. On the surface, it is one of those words (like "non-chalant") that appears to be a compound suggesting a non existent opposite word (like "chalant")

      The OED cites P.D. Wodehouse for "gruntled", but obviously Wodehouse was playing with the language here when he suggests that it means "satisfied". "Gruntle" is actually a word, but it is an obsolete one. It is not the opposite of "gruntle". "Gruntle"/"disgruntle" is a word pair more like "flammable"/"inflammable"; the "in-" prefix in "inflammable" is not the "in-" that means "not" ; it is the "in-" prefix that means "in, into or onto". The "in-" in "inflammable" is a cognate of the prefix "en-", as in "enraged".

      "Dis-" in "disgruntled" is from a much rarer and erudite Latin sense of "dis", one that means "utterly". Both the "utterly" sense of "dis" and the "not"/"lack"/"opposite of" senses come from a Proto-Indo-European root mean "to separate".

      So we should take "disgruntled" to mean "utterly gruntled", not "un-gruntled". So what is "gruntle" supposed to mean? Technically, "gruntle" is the frequentive form of "grunt". A "frequentive" verb is one that indicates a continual, incessant action. The word "gruntle" originally came into English meaning the incessant sounds made by an inconsolably upset pig. Later by metonymy it came also refer to the pig's snout (the part he gruntles with), and later the word was used to describe the faces of people in an unpleasant mood. There are not so many useful Latin prefixes for amplification, and "supergruntled" does not trip off the tongue, so "disgruntled" became the word for a person whose face expressed a very unpleasant mood.

  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ryan.onsrc (1321531) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:33PM (#31517514) Homepage

    Perhaps Toyota should review which Engineers have been fired lately.

  • ...is the perfect example (and with car analogy indeed) of why DRM and remote product (de)activation is doomed to failure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      Shrug, several people pay for these features.

      LoJack and OnStar, services which cost considerably yearly fees have this feature as a selling point.

      In this case its used just like LoJack. The bank requires it be installed on cars of jackasses who no one wants to finance due to their history. It in fact is something that allows the bank to feel confident that the risk of the loan is not unacceptably high for someone who indeed is an unacceptably high risk. Its really no different than the higher interest ra

    • by jimicus (737525) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:36AM (#31520070)

      ...is the perfect example (and with car analogy indeed) of why DRM and remote product (de)activation is doomed to failure.

      Actually, this is a perfect example of why remote product deactivation is a great idea (it reduces the risk involved in selling a car on credit to people who are lousy credit risks), there are just some glitches that need ironing out. If it had been authenticated with a certificate which could be revoked as soon as the employee left (even better - build the certificate revoking process into the "remove employee from computer system" process) it'd be much less of an issue.

      If you want an example of why remote product (de)activation is a lousy idea - and one with a car analogy - there was one on /. a couple of years back about a gated multi-storey car park where the developers of the car-park remotely locked the car park (locking all the cars in) when the owner refused to pay a monthly fee.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:02PM (#31518160)

    Dear Mr. Goosnarp:

    I regret to inform you that the dealership no longer requires your services. Please don't assume that we believe you are without value as an employee and a human being, it's just that your particular skillset is not what we really need right now. Although you consistently exhibit a very high level of originality, and your computer skills easily surpass anyone else currently in our employ, we need somebody who pays more attention to the small details (cough) IP addy (cough).

    We wish you well in your future endeavors, and would be delighted to supply a positive recommendation to any prospective employers who may contact us...as long as you don't do anything stupid.

    Sincerely,

    Your Former Boss

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