New Jailbreak Code for John Deere Is Here to "Liberate the Tractors”

Right-To-Repair advocate cracks the code on high-end farming equipment.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
A John Deere tractor on Gibson’s Green Acres Dairy on February 16, 2018 in Ogden, Utah.
A John Deere tractor on Gibson’s Green Acres Dairy on February 16, 2018 in Ogden, Utah.
Image: Gene Sweeney Jr. (Getty Images)

A new jailbreak code for John Deere tractors revealed Saturday at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas, is the latest tool in the right-to-repair movement’s fight to make everything a little more durable and sustainable.

Farmers are used to fixing what’s broken with their own two hands, however manufacturers purposefully put lockouts in tractor software to prevent unauthorized repairs. The company promised to simplify things, but didn’t put forth the effort until March of this year. But there was always an option: you could hack the tractors and bypass the security codes held only by dealers.

Expert hacker Sick Codes talked about John Deere tractor software vulnerabilities at last years’ DefCon. After John Deere used his work to close some security loopholes, the reaction from farmers was less than positive, according to Wired:

“The right-to-repair side was a little bit opposed to what I was trying to do,” he tells WIRED. “I heard from some farmers; one guy emailed me and was like ‘You’re fucking up all of our stuff!’ So I figured I would put my money where my mouth is and actually prove to farmers that they can root the devices.”

This year, Sick Codes says that while he is primarily concerned about world food security and the exposure that comes from vulnerable farming equipment, he also sees important value in letting farmers fully control their own equipment. “Liberate the tractors!” he says.

[...]

“Farmers prefer the older equipment simply because they want reliability. They don’t want stuff to go wrong at the most important part of the year when they have to pull stuff out of the ground,” Sick Codes says. “So that’s what we should all want too. We want farmers to be able to repair their stuff for when things go wrong, and now that means being able to repair or make decisions about the software in their tractors.”

Advertisement

Since Sick Codes first released his research on the tractors in 2021, the right-to-repair movement has also had quite a few victories, as Wired pointed out:

After years of controversy in the US over the “right to repair” the equipment one purchases, the movement seems to have reached a turning point. The White House issued an executive order last year directing the Federal Trade Commission to increase enforcement efforts over practices like voiding warranties for outside repair. That, combined with New York state passing its own right-to-repair law and creative activist pressure, has generated unprecedented momentum for the movement.

Advertisement

Click on through to Wired to get the full story, including how Sick Codes actually hacked the whole thing