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Hacker gets video game Doom to play on John Deere tractor display

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Your John Deere tractor display can be used to plant, fertilize, and (thanks to the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas) play the classic video game Doom! A security researcher known as Sick Codes showed off their ability to overlay a semi-transparent Doom game play screen onto the display of a Deere 4240.

Doom — a first-person shooter video game was first launched in the early ’90s — was not exactly an era known for killer graphics. And the version that was tied into Deere’s UI lacked sound, but Sick Codes worked with Doom modder Skelegant to make the Deere version something special: Instead of taking place in dungeons with massive firearms the way the original game did, the Deere mod takes place in a corn field, where the player mows down enemies on a tractor.

In a tweet, Sick Codes, who describes themselves as someone who “weaponizes source code,” explained what went into this setup. They said it took six months to execute, the CPU is NXP imx6, the OS is Wind River Linux 8, and it was played on a John Deere 4240.

One question that has come up since this feat is what this means for Deere tractor owners and the ability to access trouble codes. According to a report from Wired, Sick Codes devised and presented a new jailbreak that gave the hacker root access to the tractor’s system. Wired goes onto say that “the tractor exploitation that Sick Codes uncovered isn’t a remote attack, but the vulnerabilities involved represent fundamental insecurities in the devices that could be exploited by malicious actors or potentially chained with other vulnerabilities.”

Additionally, were this tactic to become public, it could create new avenues for farmers and other mechanics to diagnose and repair these machines without having to rely on specialized dealers. 

However, it’s safe to say that the whole process related to the right-to-repair movement isn’t that simple. Technology brings capability, but that attribute requires a new level of complexity not seen before in the agricultural community. Understanding the advanced control systems on modern tractors involves a massive commitment to knowledge that would preclude many people who want to repair their own machines from actually doing so.

But what Sick Codes has done here is opened the door to that as a possibility in the future, and for many farmers, that’s what they want: the option to decide for themselves how to proceed with repairs, whether on their own or through the equipment manufacturer.

Anyone else wondering when FarmVille is coming to a tractor near you?

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