Episode 73

BRICKING TRACTORS with Cory Doctorow

Earlier this year, it was reported that tractors and combines worth more than $5m stolen by Russian troops from a John Deere dealership in Ukraine had been remotely disabled - and could not be used.

It was a feel-good story in the midst of so many distressing reports and images coming out of this destructive conflict.

But was the bigger picture more worrying? I speak with Cory Doctorow, author, Guardian journalist with a special interest in protecting human rights in this digital age.

He says that whilst ‘kill-switches’ used to disable the machinery provide a security benefit, it is possible that widely available ‘hacking’ technology could also be used to disrupt the world’s agricultural infrastructure by those with more sinister motives.

All of which feeds into the Right to Repair cases currently going through the US courts. It is also all about who owns the tractor, who owns data, and who owns the rights to the embedded software?

Deere contends that a customer can never fully own connected machinery because it holds exclusive rights to the software coding.  

Some US farmers have attempted to unlock the embedded by purchasing illegal firmware –mostly developed by sophisticated hackers based in Ukraine!  

Episode is 43 minutes

Original Cory Doctorow article 

About the Podcast

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The farm and grass machinery business

About your host

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Chris Biddle

Chris is an experienced journalist specialising in the farm and grass machinery market. He has worked for a major tractor manufacturer and been a managing director of a farm and grass machinery dealership in the West Country.
In 1988, he launched trade magazine, Service Dealer followed by TurfPro in 1998, selling both titles to Land Power Publications in 2015.
He was editor of Landwards, the professional journal of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) from 2008 until 2019 and is the recipient of the 2020 IAgrE Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Land-Based industry.
Chris lives in Salisbury with his wife Trish, and is an avid cricket fan and member of the MCC for over 55 years.