Omar Ramos-Lopez Hacks Webtech Plus: Halts 100 Austin TAC Cars
Austin police arrested Omar Ramos-Lopez, 20, a disgruntled former employee of Texas Auto Centre who remotely prevented 100 vehicles bought from the dealership from starting or caused their horns to endlessly honk.
Ramos-Lopez, used an online vehicle-immobilization system—meant to alert customers of the Texas Auto Center who are late on their auto payments—to disable cars or cause horns to honk uncontrollably.
“We initially dismissed it as mechanical failure,” said manager Martin Garcia. “We started having a rash of up to a hundred customers at one time complaining.”
Ramos-Lopez was laid off in February and allegedly also threw bricks at cars sold at the TAC’s four locations to get revenge on his ex-employer.
Webtech Plus System Used Against Texas Auto Centre
Instead of calling the repo depot, the dealership uses Webtech Plus, an Internet system that reminds drivers of overdue payments through their vehicles. Messages are sent over a wireless pager network to a black box behind the dashboard.
The system allows the dealership to keep a car from starting or trigger the horn. For safety reasons, the system does not turn off the ignition while a vehicle is running.
Calls came in the last week of February from many drivers who missed work or called tow trucks to transport their disabled vehicles. Some customers reported that their car horns woke them up in the middle of the night and the only way to stop the honking was to remove the car battery.
Five days later, the Texas Auto Center reset the passwords for its employees' Webtech Plus accounts, solving the problem and horn-induced headaches.
Police Track Webtech Hack to Ramos-Lopez
Through AT&T’s internet service, police traced the signal to Ramos-Lopez’s IP address and charged him with breach of computer security. If convicted, Ramos-Lopez could be jailed for 120 days to 2 years.
According to Garcia, Ramos-Lopez’s Webtech Plus account was deleted when he was laid off, but he reportedly got back into the system using another employee’s account. He began by searching individual customers until he found a database of all 1100 drivers and started going down the list, but only affected 100.
This is the first incident in which an intruder has abused the Webtech Plus system. Pay Technologies, the company behind the system, doesn’t think the horns could have gone off in the middle of the night as they can only be activated between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.