Oh, Deer! Almost $5M of John Deere Equipment Stolen From Ukraine Was Remotely Locked

A John Deere dealership near the occupied city of Melitopol, Ukraine, was robbed of $5 million worth of farming equipment. The heist involved flatbed trucks and the thieves took two combine harvesters, which are worth around $300,000 each, along with 27 other vehicles and farming machinery. But there's a catch, as all those vehicles will not be able to be used.
John Deere combines with GPS system 6 photos
John Deere combines with GPS systemJohn Deere combines with GPS systemJohn Deere combines with GPS systemJohn Deere combines with GPS systemJohn Deere combines with GPS system
Now, you might be thinking, since they were all stolen from the dealership, the thieves in uniform must have gotten the keys to them as well, right? Well, while that may be so, it does not matter anymore, as it was all a waste of fuel. Some might view this as a tactical maneuver to prevent the Ukranian "farmy" from recovering russian tanks.

While Russian troops have reportedly stolen things that can be used back home, the farming equipment that was stolen from Ukraine had GPS trackers on it.

Some of those trackers may be hardwired into the operating systems of those vehicles, so jamming them is not enough, as the GPS system has various uses in farming vehicles, and that would make them inoperable.

Moreover, it also came with proprietary software, and the American brand made the latter so difficult to manipulate using third-party software that it was involved in lawsuits in the U.S. for not letting people diagnose and repair their equipment themselves.

Well, in this case, someone is thanking the engineering team behind the system, as they know that the stolen equipment cannot be used without getting its software cracked. Mind you, the software hack we are referencing would have to be done to all the machines that have computers installed.

Some may just have GPS tracking and a remote locking device, which may be enough to reveal the position of the thieves, as well as to stop the equipment from being used without having to destroy the lock.

Even though experienced hackers are reportedly working to crack the code, there is a risk that the hack may not work or that it may function for a fleeting period.

From there, it may revert to its “locked” state or even become “bricked” if someone attempts to hack again. Its behavior depends on pre-programmed instructions, and these are not exactly explained in the user manual.

As Business Insider noted, the equipment is currently 700 miles (ca. 1,127 km) away from the dealership. It is believed that the gear might never be recovered.

Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows press and promotional images of John Deere combines with GPS and app tracking.


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