We have seen Doom everywhere: from PC screens the FPS history has been modified several times to run on vending machines, on fertility tests, on every device with a processor and a screen inside. When a hacker manages to crack a device by running Doom, it is a sign that the hack has reached deep into the system, a sort of security seal.
This time around Doom, in a graphically modified version to replace floors and walls with cornfields, ended up on the John Deere tractor screen.
The change to Doom, or the addition of wheat fields, is the work of the famous modder Skelegant, while the credit for being able to load Doom on the tractor screen goes to Sick Codes, which showed the result during the well-known security conference Def Con which is held annually in Las Vegas.
Why is it important to have Doom running on a tractor? Simple, John Deere tractors have always been at the center of controversy due to the rigidity of the company in managing repairs and spare parts. John Deere locks up its tractors via software and can control them remotely, so much so that it recently managed to completely disable some vehicles that had been stolen by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
American farmers have been asking to be able to repair their tractors themselves for years, and only recently has a small opening been shown by releasing the software to unlock the tractors after repairs to a group of independent repairers.
Sick Codes, after months of work, managed to jailbreak the tractor by penetrating one of the installed linux subsystems. This allowed him to be able to overlay Doom over the tractor’s native interface on the cockpit screen.
Not only that: during the work done he also managed to have root access, through which he downloaded all the tractor logs with all the diagnostic map. By taking advantage of this access it would be possible to repair the tractor and rehabilitate all its functions even if the repair was not done by an official service center. Unfortunately, at the moment the method of obtaining root access involves soldering a card to the tractor motherboard, too sophisticated for many, however it seems that by working on it a little more we can arrive at a “software only” solution.
One trend, that of access to the operating system of cars, which is becoming central in a world where car manufacturers are starting to sell options as software: cars that for economies of scale are all made the same, but with pieces that are deactivated away. software until the user pays. The most recent case is that of heated seats, present but disabled on some cars.