Posts Tagged ‘OnStar’

Texas Man disables 100 cars using the Internet

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Omar Ramos-Lopez is pictured here in his mug shot provided by the Travis County Jail. (AP Photo/Travis County Jail)

If you have a newer model vehicle, you may have decided to spring for an upgrade package that included OnStar or an onboard GPS system. And if you’ve ever used these services, you know how convenient they are and how much time you can save by having them available at the touch of your fingertips. A Texas man may make you reconsider having the options available on your car, however.

Texas resident Omar Ramos-Lopez was arrested on Wednesday and charged with the “felony breach of computer security” of his former employer, an Austin car dealership. Omar used a former colleague’s password to access the dealership’s systems and then proceeded to use the system to shut down ignitions on vehicles or set off their horns.

You might think it sounds like a bit of science fiction but one of the selling points of modern day auto security systems is that cars equipped with such systems can be shut down remotely if an owner reports their vehicle stolen. The systems are also used by repo agents to activate car alarms and horns when they suspect a vehicle is being hidden by the owner in order to prevent a repossession attempt.

Initially Omar’s shenanigans were confined to changes of the dealership’s business records. Employees noticed someone was going in and changing the names in their customer database. One of the changes was to name dead rapper Tupac Shakur as the owner of a recently sold vehicle.

Evidently Omar eventually tired of that mild  mischief and began shutting down the ignitions of vehicles, forcing owners to call tow trucks to have the vehicles moved to the dealership for repairs. Initially, the dealership thought there were mechanical issues especially when customers began reporting that their cars’ horns would begin sounding and could not be deactivated in any manner than to disconnect the battery.

The final straw, however, was when employees of the dealership noticed someone had ordered over $130,000 in parts and equipment from the company that manufactured the GPS devices. At that point, police were able to trace the malicious actions to Ramos-Lopez’s home computer.

Already a discussion topic around the nation, the actions of one individual bring to light how easily widespread damage can be done by a disgruntled employee with a computer to devices we have come to depend on for day to day life. Thankfully, there were no damages to property and no loss of life. One has to wonder how much damage Ramos-Lopez could have done had he decided to disable a moving vehicle that was in heavy traffic or on its way to a medical facility.

While the initial charge may be “felony breach of computer security”, there is no doubt in my mind that additional charges will be tagged on when Ramos-Lopez’s trial date is set. The mischief may have been contained to 100 vehicles or so but calculate how much money was spent by customers for tow trucks, loss of time, and perhaps even the potential loss of life that he caused by disabling vehicles.

Gritskrieg – End of Line