How a Hacked Tractor Added Fuel to the Right-to-Repair Movement

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Farming has gotten quite tech-savvy. These days, there are all sorts of Wi-Fi-enabled, app-controlled, and autonomously piloted machines out there doing the tilling and harvesting. The biggest player in the high-tech farming field is John Deere, a company which keeps very tight control over who can modify or repair its tractors and other farm equipment. The company’s policies have drawn ire from advocates in the right-to-repair movement, who think that if you buy something, you should be able to fix it, upgrade it, or modify it without having to jump through the company's hoops. Recently, a white-hat hacker discovered a way to jailbreak John Deere tractors, allowing all sorts of non-company sanctioned access to the devices. It’s a big move that has implications for the security of the food supply and for the repairability of devices across the world.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior writer Lily Hay Newman joins us to discuss the latest John Deere hack and what it means for the broader right-to-repair movement.

Show Notes

Read Lily’s story about the jailbreak of John Deere tractors. Read Andy Greenberg’s story about getting hacked while driving a Jeep at 70 mph. Here’s Lily on what happened when a ransomware attack hit JBS meat processing facilities. Follow all of WIRED’s security and right-to-repair coverage.


Lily recommends wearing N95 masks, in particular the very stylish Kimberly Clark duckbill mask. Lauren recommends the New Yorker interview with Ocean Vuong, author of poetry collectio...

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