Monday, November 21, 2011

Young computer whiz disabled more than 100 cars from his computer

If we told you that a young computer whiz disabled more than 100 cars from his computer, you'd probably think "Man, this Hackers remake is gonna suck." That's the sort of wildly impossible feat that could only come from Hollywood's ridiculous conception of technology ("Oh no, the hackers have taken over our cars using their cache matrix nodes!") And yet, it happened. And here's the guy who did it:

The real-life Angelina Jolie.

Twenty-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez was an employee for an Austin-based car dealership until February of 2010, when he was let go from the company and his passwords were revoked. His former coworker's passwords, however, were not. This was a problem for the customers of the Texas Auto Center.

You see, part of Ramos-Lopez's job involved using a system a called WebTeckPlus to remotely turn off the cars whose owners were late on payments -- basically, there's a little box installed inside every car that, upon receiving a wireless signal, can disable the ignition system. You can see where this is going.
That is, nowhere.

Using someone else's password, Ramos-Lopez logged in to the system and shut down the cars of more than 100 random unsuspecting customers, who then proceeded to flood his former employer's office with angry calls since, you know, they weren't actually behind on their payments at all. Some of them even reported horns going off incessantly in the middle of the night, which was also within Ramos-Lopez's newfound powers and could only be stopped by going out and removing the car's battery. We're guessing that most of these people weren't even aware that something like this existed (we sure didn't) and assumed some sort of demonic possession was involved.

This caused a variety of problems. While the system can't shut down cars that are already in movement, anyone who was driving to work and stopped to buy a falafel suddenly found themselves stranded in the middle of the street. It took two days for Texas Auto Center to figure out what was causing this -- in the meantime, people missed work, missed school and had to spend money on tow trucks because of a jobless IT guy with too much time on his hands.
They should feel lucky that he didn't activate "self-destruct" mode.

Employees at the dealership first noticed something weird was going on earlier the same month, when they were billed for $130,000 in GPS equipment no one remembered ordering. Also, Tupac Shakur had apparently purchased a 2009 vehicle from them, which would require either a time machine or enormous forethought on his part. Turns out Ramos-Lopez had been going over the company's database, changing names and messing with the records like a common Wikipedia vandal.

Eventually, the police tracked down Ramos-Lopez's IP address and charged him with breach of computer security and with being a dick. Which would be a terrible injustice if it turned out Ramos-Lopez was innocent and that Tupac's ghost was responsible for everything.

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