By Kevin Poulsen
March 17, 2010
More than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the
horns honking out of control, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based
vehicle-immobilization system normally used to get the attention of
consumers delinquent in their auto payments.
Police with Austin's High Tech Crime Unit on Wednesday arrested
20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez, a former Texas Auto Center employee who
was laid off last month, and allegedly sought revenge by bricking the
cars sold from the dealership.s four Austin-area lots.
"We initially dismissed it as mechanical failure," says Texas Auto
Center manager Martin Garcia. "We started having a rash of up to a
hundred customers at one time complaining. Some customers complained of
the horns going off in the middle of the night. The only option they had
was to remove the battery."
The dealership used a system called Webtech Plus as an alternative to
repossessing vehicles that haven't been paid for. Operated by
Cleveland-based Pay Technologies, the system lets car dealers install a
small black box under vehicle dashboards that responds to commands
issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager
network. The dealer can disable a car's ignition system, or trigger the
horn to begin honking, as a reminder that a payment is due. The system
will not stop a running vehicle.
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