Tractor hacking is a growing trend due to John Deere and other tractor manufacturers making it impossible to perform unauthorized repairs on farm equipment through the placement of anti-tamper systems. While farming is an ancient skill, farmers are faced with technological advancements. In fact, farmers are among the most unaware of software and other advanced farm equipment that require consistent maintenance.
Typically, hacking refers to breaking into someone else’s data without their consent. That is what John Deere tractor owners have to do now to keep their farm tools running. The question is why?
The Problem Leading to these Hacks
The world is going digital. Most products that we use in our day-to-day lives are becoming increasingly technological, making us more dependent on digital systems. Companies comprehend this, which is why they are catching up on these advancements and making sure that software is proprietary so that all equipment repairs translate to additional revenue from their customers.
Tractors, like every other machinery, become more technologically advanced, so is the John Deere brand. John Deere is a huge corporation that makes the best tractors in the world. They are green with a hint of yellow, powerful, and prominent. The newest John Deere tractor model can cost up to $110,000 real dollars; this is just about the price of a Rolls-Royce! If you own one of these beauties, consider yourself lucky.
Previously, a farmer needed a pry bar, wrench, and hammer to make repairs. Today they have installed software all over the equipment, so you will need that same software just to get the tractor running, calibrated, and activated, Angry farmers lamented.
If a farmer buys a tractor, he or she should be able to do whatever he wants with the tractor. If you’re going to replace a fuel pump and you take it to your local mechanic, he will replace it cheaply without even going to the shop. On the other hand, John Deere will charge farmers about $500 to send out their technician to plug in a connector into their USB to activate the part. Ludacris, right?
However, if you look at it from John Deere’s point of view, of course, this is perfect for their business. These stringent measures force farmers to look for cheaper ways to keep their tractors running – they hack them.
Is it illegal to Hack your John Deere Tractor?
Farmers believe preventing them from modifying their tractors is an infringement of their sole authority to make decisions on assets they own, and this can have dire consequences in their farm operations.
That is why farmers have turned to hack their John Deere tractors in an attempt to return their right to repair their tractors to themselves instead of leaving that to the corporation that sold them to them. However, these farmers would rather not deal with the pirated software at all, so they have become the mouthpiece to enact a legal right to repair act that would grant them permission to diagnostics and tools to fix their John Deere tractors.
These problems aren’t restricted to agricultural machinery. The right to repair has been a heated issue in the automobile sector, particularly since computers play an increasingly important role. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act made tampering with a car’s software illegal for a long time.
But is it legal for tractors so far?
The fact is that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which bans manufacturers from circumventing encryption in order to safeguard their intellectual property, hacking is illegal.
However, the US Copyright Office provides exclusions to section 1201 of the Copyright Act every three years, and the last list of exemptions includes tractors!
The exemption allows for the modification of computer programs that are contained in and control the functioning of the tractor, as long as circumvention is an action taken by the owner of the farm machinery to allow the diagnosis, repair, or lawful modification of the tractor’s function.
John Deere Tractor Hacking 101
Most angry farmers in America have sourced software from Eastern Europe to hack into their tractors. The software is sold in the black market, accessible on paid invite-only forums. The online groups provide hacked John Deere software through a specific code. Once access is granted, farmers have a variety of programs available for sale, mostly from cities in Poland and Ukraine.
Electronic Data Link, Payload files, and Diagnostic Files servers that communicate with tractor controllers are among the software that is traded on these online platforms. They also offer speed-limit modifiers, license key generators, reverse engineered cables which allow farmers to operate their own tractors with an internet plugged computer.
Sounds complex, right? Oddly enough, it is not.
While hacking may technically be legal, that does not mean it is safe or convenient to do the checks, repairs, and modifications yourself. That is why advocates in lieu of farmers are fighting to obtain the right to repair their own John Deere tractors using aftermarket parts.
But the elephant in the room is how to make sure your modifications and repairs enhance the performance of your harvesting machine. The sure way is to source any parts you may need from a reputable and certified supplier. With such a supplier, all you’ll need is to provide accurate information of the part you need, and the item will be on its way to your location.
Tractor hacking has become the norm, and it should not be so. The vehicle companies should look for a way to protect the farmers from hacking as much as possible. It is legal to tinker with your gadgets, but you probably need some help from the manufacturer or a certified supplier of John Deere parts when the product is complex. Remember, no matter how good you are in hacking, you have to secure the correct parts which are of desirable quality. Ultimately if you own a John Deere tractor, you should be allowed to determine what to do with it. This includes how long you intend to use it, how much assistance you need, and whether you can repair or modify it. After all, it’s yours.