March 18, 2010

Man Accused Of Hacking Into Cars Over The Internet

A Texas man who was fired from an auto dealership used the Internet to disable ignitions and set off horns on more than 100 vehicles sold by his old place of work, police said on Wednesday.

Omar Ramos-Lopez, 20, was arrested on Wednesday by Austin police and charged with felony breach of computer security. He evidently used a password from a former colleague to remotely cause the havoc, according to police.

Several people had to call tow trucks to come get their cars and many missed work or important appointments due to the foul play by Ramos-Lopez. "He caused these customers, now victims, to miss work," said Austin police spokesperson Veneza Aguinaga. "They had to get tow trucks. They didn't know what was going on with their vehicles."

The Texas Auto Center dealership installs GPS devices that can prevent cars from starting. The system is used to repossess cars when buyers default on their loan, said Jeremy Norton, a controller at the dealership in Austin. It also can activate car horns to alert repo workers as to where the vehicles are when they believe they are being hidden.

Beginning in mid-February, employees at the dealership noticed changes to their business records. Somebody was accessing the system and changing customers' names, Norton said. Soon after that, customers began calling in saying their cars wouldn't start, or that their horns were going off continually. Norton said the dealership thought the cars had mechanical problems at first.

Employees noticed that someone had ordered $130,000 in parts and equipment from the company that manufactures GPS devices. Police were able to trace the sabotage back to Ramos-Lopez's computer.

Ramos-Lopez was in the Travis County Jail on Wednesday with a $3,000 bond.

Norton said Ramos-Lopez didn't seem upset about losing his job. "I think he thought what he was doing was a harmless prank," Norton said.

Norton said the company was taking measures to make sure something like this will not happen again.


Image 2: Omar Ramos-Lopez is shown in a booking mugshot provided by the Travis County Jail.