Tractors probably wouldn’t make the top five, or even top ten list of things that you might consider hackable, but farmers are increasingly finding themselves in the position of hacking the firmware on their tractors so that they can fix them.

Most new tractors rely heavily on computers to control various aspects of how the tractor will run, similar to the average new car. Thanks to a software update that came out last fall, John Deere owners are finding it more difficult to fix their own tractors. The tractors now have to be repaired by an authorized mechanic who has special software from John Deere. While tractor mechanics do make house calls, they can be costly and time consuming as the authorized dealer may be 40 or 50 miles from the farmer.

The Library of Congress, which controls what can be exempted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, has made an exception for vehicles such as tractors, but John Deere and other manufacturers are putting restrictions into their terms of service, forcing farmers to turn to hackers in the Ukraine to jailbreak tractors so that they can fix them.

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About Author
Brie Alsbury, Community Learning Specialist
Brie is a Community Learning Specialist with degrees in art from UNO and Iowa State University. When she's not working with computers, she writes and draws comics.