back to article John Deere tractors 'bricked' after Russia steals machinery from Ukraine

Millions of dollars worth of John Deere agricultural machinery stolen from a dealership in Ukraine by Russian Federation forces has been traced to the Chechen Republic and bricked, it is reported. In this instance, the Moline, Illinois-based Deere & Co.'s penchant for proprietary digital access controls may have worked out …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Deere me

    This has the smell of a publicity stunt complete with a justification of Deere's opposition to the right to repair.

    $5m is nothing to Deere and it may even be covered by insurance.

    If Deere was serious about sanctioning Russia, they could shut down equipment across Russia.

    1. Mayday Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Deere me

      "If Deere was serious about sanctioning Russia, they could shut down equipment across Russia."

      This is probably not happening for a couple of reasons.

      1) If the equipment is not "new" and as such still in a yard, it is impossible to know where it is now. For example, a Russian may have purchased a tractor, then sold it to someone who is Poland or Ukraine last year some time. Disabling the "Russian" tractors would risk disabling plant in places outside of Russia. This could possibly be resolved by demonstrating the plant is no longer in Russia but that seems like a difficult exercise, especially if the plant cant make its way to a Deere authorised repair place under its own power.

      2) I'd imagine some direct cyber assault on agriculture and food production would elicit some kind of response, either to the business or to other entities if they aren't already. "New" and otherwise stolen plant wouldn't fit directly into this category.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Deere me

        "it is impossible to know where it is now."

        Incorrect. They are GPS equipped.

        As for the rest of yours, Deere doesn't care. As far as Deere is concerned, they own all their gear. You are merely permitted to operate it as long as you don't break Deere's very capricious rules.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Deere me

          What I'm getting is -

          "We have this abusive power, but look, we used it just this once for a good cause so that's OK. "

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Deere me

            The tractors in this case weren't sold, they were stolen, making it far more clear cut

            If they started arbitrarily disabling machines legitimately in private hands then there's a real problem to deal with. Right now it's more like a manufacturer-installed lojack

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Deere me

      has the smell of a publicity stunt complete with a justification of Deere's opposition to the right to repair.

      The idea that they COULD do such a thing, via DRM, is frightening enough.

      WHO owns John Deere tractors, again???

      Time to open source the things!

      (that and if you want to REALLY fix the Ukraine-Russia war without escalating it into WW3, stalrt prloducing domestic oil inside the USA until the prices get so low that Pootie cannot AFFORD TO STAY THERE and leaves)

      Yeah - they are "Majoring in the Minors" - publicity stunts, posturing, and virtue signalling us into global thermonuclear war, if this goes on too long...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Deere me

        (that and if you want to REALLY fix the Ukraine-Russia war without escalating it into WW3, stalrt prloducing domestic oil inside the USA until the prices get so low that Pootie cannot AFFORD TO STAY THERE and leaves)

        Russia's foothold in the energy sector is gas, not oil. Supplies of oil are pretty interchangeable, and while you need to adjust your refinery processes for the various grades of crude, a lot comes in via tankers and it's for a large part immaterial whether those bring in Saudi, Nigerian, Venezuelan or Brazilian oil. Over half of Russia's oil is consumed locally, and for the part that is exported it's not too difficult to get it from alternative sources.

        Gas is quite different. Most of it comes into Europe via pipelines, and for instance German and Italian industry would be in serious trouble if supplies from Russia were to be cut off. Same for domestic use in Austria, Bulgaria and several other European countries.

        But that is also Putin's Achilles heel. Changing to renewables has been kicked into high gear, but unfortunately that's not going to produce results overnight.

        And one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas; 80% of Russian gas exports to Europe transit Ukraine.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          ""German and Italian industry would will be in serious trouble if when supplies from Russia were to be are cut off""

          FTFY

        2. Jedit Silver badge

          "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

          They're not going to receive as high a percentage as Russia gets for the gas itself, though.

          That said, it's not an inconsiderable sum of money. I wonder if part of Putin's goals weren't to control the Ukrainian section of the pipeline so Russia could trouser all of the gas profits. Not the chief goal, of course, but it would be a nice little bonus.

          1. PRR
            Mushroom

            Re: "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

            >> Ukraine receives transport fees for gas...

            > They're not going to receive as high a percentage as Russia gets for the gas...

            I dunno. Up here in Maine the delivered price of Propane is over twice the price at the price at the head pipe in Oklahoma. Gas in the hole is cheap. More than half of what I pay is transportation. Granted the propane-to-Maine shipping is less efficient than Nat-gas to Europe: smaller flow and secondary to other bulk products. But not fully accounting for distribution was a flaw in Marx's reasoning, and that may still infect Moscow's thoughts.

            Icon in memory of Durham Woods March 23, 1994--- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison,_New_Jersey_natural_gas_explosion

            1. Lis

              Re: "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

              @PRR

              Quote, Gas in the hole is cheap, unquote.

              I need the brain bleach NOW

          2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

            Re: "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

            A larger fraction of zero is zero.

          3. I'm Brian and so's my wife

            Re: "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

            I saw a YouTube video that laid out some very plausible reasons for the invasion and the need to stir up trouble in Transnistria. In summary it relates to sizeable gas deposits off the Crimean peninsula.

            The YT channel is RealLifeLore and the title is "Why Russia is Invading Ukraine", published on 26 Feb 2022

          4. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "one upside is that Ukraine receives transport fees for gas"

            There are _very_ large gas and oil deposits under Ukraine itself which are now being developed. It's probably not coincidental that Russia is hitting the areas where these are all concentrated, nor as they're about to start being shipped

            Eliminating the competition in the way that only a mafiosi can understand

        3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Deere me

          > Changing to renewables has been kicked into high gear,

          Renewables INcrease gas requirements, not the other way round.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Deere me

          Which is why the Russians were so keen on Nordstream2 - it bypassed all those transit fees whilst netting them more german cash

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: Deere me

            It also gave them 2 Ukraine-specific things:

            1. a stick to beat them with

            2. eroding and weakening their economy, making them more subject to subjection

      2. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Deere me

        Agree, well placed investment in energy projects needs to be used as a key front to undermine Putin. Ideally renewable, but any of the dino-fuels if they can be brought in to bridge the gap. And life-extend existing nuclear plants where feasible.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Deere me

        "(that and if you want to REALLY fix the Ukraine-Russia war without escalating it into WW3, stalrt prloducing domestic oil inside the USA until the prices get so low that Pootie cannot AFFORD TO STAY THERE and leaves)"

        Not going to happen. He's not there for oil. Not being able to sell oil will crimp his treasury though. On the other hand, Russia is also the largest source of nickel, according to a BBC news story today. That's needed for so many things in the modern word, not least of which is batteries used in EVs. There's quite a range of raw materials that comes from Russia and Ukraine that the West needs and can't immediately be sourced elsewhere without a slow ramp up in production and lots of investment.

        1. trindflo Bronze badge
          Boffin

          Re: Deere me

          The nickel might not be as critical to batteries as it appears. Due to questions about getting nickel from China and Russia, the cheaper (LFP) Iron based batteries, that have been around for some time, are being used more. The batteries aren't as good, but they are quite functional and will probably improve as they are used more.

          Reuters article on Tesla and others using Iron instead of Nickel in batteries

          1. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: Deere me

            Anyway, all the woke people protesting Putin's Invasion will willingly give up their own cell-phones rather than allow him to get away with stuff.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Deere me

          "On the other hand, Russia is also the largest source of nickel"

          That crown gets passed around regularly. Nickel and cobalt reserves are widespread (usually in conjunction with copper) and the bigger issue is who's willing to put up with the pollution associated with mining them (DRC is a source of "conflict cobalt" only because there's so much of it at the surface there that "artisnal mining" is even possible. The reserves in Central Europe are far bigger but also much deeper

      4. nobody who matters

        Re: Deere me

        ""WHO owns John Deere tractors, again???""

        Mostly the leasing companies I suspect - very few large agricultural machines are actually owned outright nowadays, the capital outlay would simply be too much for most farm businesses, regardless of where in the world they are.

        Added to which, the manufacturers have cottoned on to the idea that once they have got you tied into a lease, it is easy for them to make it so that you would need a very good incentive (and a strong will) to switch to another brand when it needs replacement at the end of the lease period.

        John Deere (and Claas) are particularly good at this!!

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Deere me

      So what is that cost price?

      Let's be generous, $1m.........

      Most of the cost is mark-up and tech, not heavy metal. Whilst in this specific situation the response fits well with the political views and general response to Ukraine it still gives a nasty foresight as to where a lot of this is going to end up.

  2. Gary Heard

    Sewers??

    On March 31, the company said two new John Deere S770 & S760 flagship harvesters, along with Tempo sewers from Swedish agricultural machinery firm Väderstad, Perhaps a "Seed Sower" in the plural and past tense? The comment needs to be fushed down the pan into the sewers...

    Obviously written by someone with no farming experience.. It can be called a "Planter" or more commonly a "Drill".

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Sewers??

      "fushed down the pan"

      Happens every time.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sewers??

        Muphry's Law, innit.

    2. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Sewers??

      @Gary Heard

      "Obviously written by someone with no farming experience.."

      That criticism made me laugh - you do realise this is a computer/electronics journal, right? Are we all meant to attend agricultural college too?

      In the week a country member (I remember) of parliament had to resign for looking at tractor porn on the front benches, I am reminded of the 1970s Wurzels classic, "I've Got a Brand New Combine Harvester and I'll Give You the (digital) Key"

      1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

        I've (Not) Got a Brand-New Key

        (a) I can't speak for anyone else, but actually I did attend an agricultural college, though the name had been previously changed, and I had majored in computer science.

        (b) When I first read the spoof "harvester" line, I thought of Melanie's version (about roller-skates), which also was from the 1970s. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCTMTflcuug

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: I've (Not) Got a Brand-New Key

          @An Old Dog,

          "I did attend an agricultural college"

          Ah, so it was you who invented the field gate array.

          I lived in a tent in the country for a long while and I found the best way to charge my laptop and phone wasn't solar, it was the electric fences some dairy farmers put around their fields.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    If I owned a piece of equipment

    That cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it was often left outside overnight, I'd want it to be made as useless as possible to thieves. This isn't like having a car parked on the street, because it is generally near your house and unless you live in the middle of nowhere, other houses, which increases the difficulty/risk for a car thief. If everyone parked their car in the middle of a field a quarter mile from the nearest house with trees blocking the view from the nearest road, car theft would be a far bigger problem.

    The problem farmers have with DRM is that the way it is used prevents them from making repairs. The ability for farm equipment to be remotely bricked is something I doubt they have any issue with, because it is to their benefit.

    1. Woodnag

      If I owned a piece of equipment?

      If the manufacturer can remotely and unilaterally brick something you bought, then you don't own it.

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

        However, as in this case if it is done at the owner's instruction - what is the problem whether it is a stolen mobile phone or combine harvester?

        Unilateral action by the manufacturer is quite another thing. There I'm with you at the barricades/repair shop.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

          >>Unilateral action by the manufacturer is quite another thing. There I'm with you at the barricades/repair shop.

          How is it unilateral for them to brick things stolen from their own dealer?

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

        Simple solution: make it optional and then they can't. If the owner, in this case the dealership, has it enabled and wants the option, then it can be remotely bricked. They are clearly on board with this. If you buy it and don't want that, you can obtain access and disable the feature, but then you can't use it yourself. Problem solved without limiting any user rights.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

          Except Deere refuses to give the supposed owner any such rights to the control systems.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

            I didn't say they had. I said you could. Or more explicitly, that the existence of a remote brick feature is compatible with the right to repair, which I support in all cases including with this equipment, having argued for it elsewhere.

        2. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

          Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

          Would "optional" turn out to mean, "we can remotely brick them all, but we choose not to brick yours because it's on the no-brick list"?

          A fat-fingered typist or cracker penetrating the manufacturer's systems could wreak havoc on you in that scenario.

          And of course, a corporation would never misuse bricking-power for evil.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

            It could, but there's another option. Run a service on the local computer that does what the current bricking one does. Only allow a user to interfere with this service if they can authenticate themselves. Provide the user an authentication method when they buy it. A user who wants the bricking option completely disabled logs in as admin and disables the service. I don't expect a full admin interface on the device, but that method can be used for a remote brick option with complete user choice, just as it does with my laptop which won't let you do much unless you happen to know the encryption key it asks for when you turn it on.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

              "but there's another option"

              No, there is not. You are not listening. Deere is not going to do this unless forced to do so by legislation. It would put a serious dent in their profits from their repair scams schemes.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

                doublelayer is talking about the general case.

              2. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

                No, I'm afraid it is you who is not listening. I have specifically acknowledged that JD have not implemented the feature in the way I recommended and I have also specifically said I don't like it that way. The post to which I responded spoke of remote bricking features in general being antithetical to the right to repair or the right to real ownership. I disagreed and provided methods. I've stated in my original comment that it was a possibility, not already granted. I stated in my previous reply to you that it was general. I stated in this one a method by which it could be accomplished, using words like "could" to indicate that it wasn't present.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: unilaterally brick something you bought

        Hey Elon, are you listening?

        Stop fscking about with vehicles that you don't own. Just because you can does not mean that you should.

      4. JDX Gold badge

        Re: If the manufacturer can remotely brick something you bought, then you don't own it.

        I know it's cool to say things like this, and "you're the product" but it's not actually true. You might not like it being the case but legally, yes you do own it. It's important to separate fact from idealism.

        You can buy cars which are forced by GPS to have speed limiters in place based on where you are located, and the ability to call some sort of AAA company and get them to lock down your stolen vehicle has been around for years.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: If the manufacturer can remotely brick something you bought, then you don't own it.

          "I know it's cool to say things like this"

          It's not cool, it's reality. John Deere will not allow farmers to work on what is supposedly their own kit, despite the fact that most farmers are vastly better mechanics than the so-called "technicians" that come out of John Deere Indoctrination Camp School. In our mind, this makes JD kit virtually worthless, and many of us are voting with our wallets. (Eyeball the ratio of JD sales profits to service profits over the last decade if you want a real eye-opener.)

          "You can buy cars which are forced by GPS to have speed limiters in place based on where you are located, and the ability to call some sort of AAA company and get them to lock down your stolen vehicle has been around for years."

          You can, maybe. I will not. That kind of shit is just asking to be abused by whoever passes for "the authorities". And seemingly, it increasingly is. Slippery slope and all that.

          Enjoy your serfdom, consumers. I'll continue the fight. You can thank me later. There will be no charge ... unless I lose, in which case we all pay with our freedom.

          1. trindflo Bronze badge

            Re: If the manufacturer can remotely brick something you bought, then you don't own it.

            What you are describing is engaging in an arms race. I seriously wish you luck, and the majority of consumers who can push back get worn down by the effort. Take for instance defeating the macrovision signal to get a copy of old movies unavailable on DVD from old VCR tapes. It can be done by passing it through a sufficiently old television. And when the television eventually breaks down you might be able to fix it yourself or find a venerable like-minded repairman. And if a vacuum tube goes out, you might still be able to find the part.

            Now in the case of Vehicle Speed Limiting governors, if they are mandated by law in some municipality, and you defeat it, and subsequently get caught piloting your low-flying aircraft above the nominally possible speed things might start getting ugly; you would need to defeat the VSL in such a way that it looks like it malfunctioned.

            As I said, best of luck. It's good to see someone is still carrying the standard.

            1. AlbertH

              As an aside.....

              Macrovision is trivially disabled by detecting frame syncs, and replacing the first 11 lines of each frame with a mid-grey. The Macrovision signal - which consists of over-peak white and black alternating signals in the first few lines of each frame (designed to freak out the AGC of video recorders) - is thus replaced with a benign, average signal, and video normality is returned!

              The circuit to achieve this is trivial - a monostable switching off the video for a few lines, triggered by a frame sync detector, and switching on a DC level for the video content.

      5. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment?

        What you suggest would affect value, not ownership.

    2. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

      Minor detail, but car parked in middle of field theft problem ? The overage thief wont make that much effort. For big items like semitrailers with a D10 dozer on back it happens, very rarely. I know of one case in WA Kimberlies where there is much SFA and cattle stations have uses for cheap earthmoving equipment. Bury semi and one dozer looks like another. I digress.

      As for cars, one item of amusement when I am recreational flying is the occasional farm that has a paddock of cars invisible from anywhere but aircraft. Nothing seems to move in those paddocks for years, except maybe wombats and roos. Given the recent interest in older vehicle that dont have electronics bleeping, alarming, blinking etc, prices for complete or nearly complete old cars are rising, at least in Oz. For one, they are owner repairable. Second, it fun to have something you have to drive with a real risk of failure if driver is incompetent.

      1. mathew42
        Meh

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

        > For one, they are owner repairable.

        With sufficient skill you could fabricate or use an alternate part in older cars, but I have a real concern that when electronic parts fail it will be simply impossible to source replacements even from dealers. You cannot even replace the stereo in a new car.

        > Two, it fun to have something you have to drive with a real risk of failure if driver is incompetent.

        While it may be "fun", the number of incompetent drivers is way to high, as evidenced by driver using vice grips as steering wheel and Tasmanian school crossing guards to trial wearing body cameras amid bad driver behaviour.

        Note that I fully support access to track days where people can take risks without endangering others, however I suspect that the intersection between track day participants and idiots on the road is tiny.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

          "but I have a real concern that when electronic parts fail it will be simply impossible to source replacements even from dealers"

          But in fact you can buy stuff manufactured by third parties, if there's demand. Exactly the same problem exists with mechanical parts for old, rare cars too.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

            "But in fact you can buy stuff manufactured by third parties, if there's demand."

            You can BUY it, sure ... but will it work?

            You;d be surprised how much stuff is computer controlled these days, even on tractors. And the computer won't let the vehicle run if the "wrong" part is installed. This is evil, evil behavio(u)r.

      2. jmch Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

        "The overage thief... "

        What about the underage ones?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

          Chances are they'll just drive it into the nearest ditch or hedgerow, from which it can be retrieved.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

        "As for cars, one item of amusement when I am recreational flying is the occasional farm that has a paddock of cars invisible from anywhere but aircraft. Nothing seems to move in those paddocks for years, except maybe wombats and roos"

        Possibly for the same reason you see car wrecks alongside the road in the outback. It's not economic to have a broken one hauled away to the scrappy. ISTR episode of Outback Truckers where this one guy had a "portable" car crusher that made a living collecting that shit. And another team that would buy and haul away some makes/models of vehicles from towns/settlements/stations in the middle of nowhere because the engine and/or other parts have a high resale value into Asia.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

      Would it not be possible to give the owner the means to lock their own equipment remotely? Or even just write into the contract that the owners have full administration privilege to decide when to lock and promise that will not be overridden by the manufacturer?

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

      They are as useless as possible to thieves. It's kinda hard to quietly fire up a combine and drive off with it in the middle of the night. Even loading it onto a trailer makes enough noise to wake the dead ... and for the really big kit, you need a permit to transport it, and all the local cops know who has a permit, and for what. Try to transport something without that permit and you'll get busted within half an hour.

      "The problem farmers have with DRM is that the way it is used prevents them from making repairs."

      Correct.

      "The ability for farm equipment to be remotely bricked is something I doubt they have any issue with, because it is to their benefit."

      Wrong. We have huge issues with the manufacturer deciding they are allowed to put the equipment into limp mode because they have decided that farmers aren't allowed to change our own fluids and filters. Pretty much anything more than that, and they brick the gear until the factory mechanic can un-brick it. Usually two or three weeks after the planting or harvesting window opens. And even then, only if we pay to transport the equipment to the dealer (and back) for the privilege. Fuck that.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

      An acquaintance had an expensive motorbike parked outside their house. Chained down to a large concrete block. Thieves drove up in a lorry - picked up the bike and concrete block - put them on the lorry and drove away. All in a matter of seconds.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

        "Thieves drove up in a lorry - picked up the bike and concrete block - put them on the lorry and drove away."

        Sounds like a job for a self-loader on a flatbed to me. Hydraulics are a lot stronger than they look.

        Regardless, you're not going to pick up a piece of large farm equipment with a couple guys in a flatbed. Not even with a self-loader.

    6. hoola Silver badge

      Re: If I owned a piece of equipment

      Only if the key control of the remote "bricking" is in the hands of the equipment owner, not the supplier.

  4. elDog

    About the only way to "brick" a piece of heavy equipment is to have it explosively self destruct.

    Making the little control box that is connected with a bunch of wires to other parts of the machinery will not be sufficient.

    Most automobile mechanics know how to hot-wire around an impediment, even a software one.

    Maybe if every John Deere tractor/etc. was sent out with a munitions-grade parcel hidden in the chassis and when the tractor was reported stolen, and if signals were present.... I'd hate to be that russian that tried to drive a multi-tonne vehicle back to mama russia only to become part of a shrapnel crowd.

    1. mattaw2001

      They can be completely bricked, sadly

      I'm afraid that these industrial behemoths are definitely of the "computer fly by wire" design style - they literally have computer controlled or push button variable gearboxes, controlled from the column that looks like it belongs in a jet fighter with all its displays, buttons and LEDs. I don't think they even have direct linkages to the steering anymore either, with computer driven hydraulics.

      That, coupled with always on cellular comms, deliberate obfuscation, encryption, and anti-repair design a-la-Apple, I completely believe they can be semi-permanently bricked with firmware updates. Last time I remember working with them the system crypto pairs its controller with each module and does a scan and key exchange to verify them all when its powered on. Anything missing, or anything new, and bam - maintenance mode for you! A dealer callout for a tech with a laptop to "re-validate" everything before you are going anywhere.

      However, I have heard the way this normally goes is that they bribe someone in a dealership in Europe to activate them "on the nod", or fudge the serials, while the parent company looks the other way. Not sure with the war how easy it is to find someone willing to do that anymore, folks are pretty damn angry and scared now.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: They can be completely bricked, sadly

        "A dealer callout for a tech with a laptop to "re-validate" everything before you are going anywhere."

        Except Deere won't send out a tech for such a thing ... rather, you have to pay to transport your factory-disabled kit to the stdealership (and back) to unlock it. If you can get an appointment, that is. Good luck with that.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: They can be completely bricked, sadly

        I once did a job where we had to use a fairly large scissor lift, working height 10m/30ft. Movement (including driving[0]) was entirely controlled[1] from a box with a joystick and a couple of switches and indicator lights. Fully electrically wired. It too was GPS tracked, and while you can only drive it at a little over walking pace no-one is going to question a flatbed driver with some transport company's livery on the cab moving the lift onto the flatbed.

        [0] Fun fact: where in a car your steering more or less self-centers when on a level road, so that when you let go of the steering wheel you end up going straight ahead again, steering a scissor lift requires that you actively have to center; tell the steering to make a turn and it will continue the turn until you use the joystick to find the 'straight ahead' steering position again. That ... takes some getting used to.

        [1] Those machines have some controls on the engine panel, but it's the aforementioned box on the work platform which has the joystick. You can do a few things from the engine panel such as controlling the leveling jacks and raise/lower the platform so you can raise it to "out of reach level" when you leave for the night. For driving and obviously working at height the ignition key needs to be in the platform box, disabling the engine panel controls, but in case of an emergency there is a lever someone on the ground can pull, opening a valve to lower the platform. During the time we were working on that project there was the King's birthday, which means Amsterdam is even more filled with drunken yobbos that it is otherwise. Half a dozen of them had managed to activate a cherrypicker-type lift (not ours, but the same manufacturer), raised it and constantly blared the horn. Which is FSCKING LOUD. They refused to stop and get back down, and in the end the police had to call in the fire brigade to get a platform engine next to the louts and teargas them at height. Had we known about the problem (we happened to be a couple of streets over, even), we could have shown them the lever to pull.

        1. quxinot

          Re: They can be completely bricked, sadly

          "[0] Fun fact: where in a car your steering more or less self-centers when on a level road, so that when you let go of the steering wheel you end up going straight ahead again, "

          Shouldn't. Almost no roads are level, they're always crowned for water runoff. If you drive on the right side of the road, the car should pull very slightly to the left to fight the crown. It's not a very noticable effect, but drive with the car set up for the street on a much flatter surface (an airstrip, a racetrack, etc) and it is distinctly present. [Reverse for driving on the left, of course].

          Point stands though, you're describing the 'on-center' feel that comes from caster/trail in the way the wheels are held to the chassis in relationship to the normal direction of travel (and is a big part of why your car becomes very unstable when driven backwards fast).

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: About the only way to "brick" a piece of heavy equipment

      I'd hate to be that russian that tried to drive a multi-tonne vehicle back to mama russia

      It'll be driven there by way of a flatbed truck.

  5. petef
    Coat

    You've got my brand new combine harvester,

    You can't have the key.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      "I am a vodka drinker, I drinks it all of the day..."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I drove my Tractor through your Haystack last night."

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        I think you won't be doing that in your Deere tractor, fortunately [ironic], for the Russian's, Deere don't supply tanks, so you can sill drive that through the haystack...

      2. David 132 Silver badge

        > "I drove my TractorTank through your HaystackMaternity Hospital last night."

        FTFY

        Signed,

        The Russians

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    and when they search for information about tractors on the internet to unlock them

    apparently they'll be taken to some porn sites, at least according to one British MP.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      So, there's at least some fun to be had.

    2. Andy Landy

      Re: and when they search for information about tractors on the internet to unlock them

      I hear his wife is writing him a John Deere letter...

  7. aerogems Bronze badge
    Devil

    I guess that's one good thing...

    ... about the DRM companies like Deere have been putting into farm equipment.

  8. ICam

    Spare parts

    They may now no longer function as whole units, but I imagine they have good potential to provide plenty of useful brand new spare parts.

    So, remotely disabled or not, I reckon it's highly unlikely they'll be seen again.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Spare parts

      Not really. Those spare parts are serialized, and signed with a cryptographic key. Plug in an "unauthorized" part, and the computer locks you out of the controls.

      1. ICam

        Re: Spare parts

        Even the non-electrical parts? It's surely the moving heavy-duty mechanical parts that are most likely to need replacement due to wear over time.

        If an ECU or other electrical parts mean you can't use a whole engine, it's still likely to have plenty of mechanical components that will be useful.

  9. c3me

    DRM and theft prevention

    If only Apple cared enough about customers to prevent profit from theft, never mind John Deere.

    A stolen new/unregistered/unused iPhone is 'impossible' to brick - one can only assume the network operators want equipment driving their service revenue, and property theft is 'breaking eggs sometimes to make omelettes'.

    And I think we'd all rather a stolen piece of Ukrainian farm machinery in Russia is disabled by John Deere's DRM, than by a cruise missile.

    1. arachnoid2

      Re: DRM and theft prevention

      During the Falklands crises wasnt there mention of an arms manufacturer that had sold software disabed missiles to the Argentinian military. If memory serves the Frech engineer went over there and enabled them, hence the furore over it?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I don't remember hearing about that. Citation, please ?

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: DRM and theft prevention

        The Exocet didn't really use software to disable; this was in 70's technology used in 82.

        The French did however have a team of technicians from the manufacturers in Argentina who did everything they could in terms of maintenance and fettling to ensure that the missiles that the Argentinians acquired would hit; to the extent of helping create a ground launched version when the Argentinians started running out of aircraft and pilots capable of launching the missiles.

        1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

          Re: DRM and theft prevention

          The Argentinians didn't run out of planes and pilots to launch Exocet.

          The launch aircraft was the Super Etendard, and none were lost.

          The Argentinians converted some shipboard Exocets to ground launched, damaging HMS Glamorgan.

          And while I am as ready as any other Englishman to slag off the French at every opportunity, in the spirit of fair play, it is worth noting that the French did share information on the Exocet with the British, to help the Royal Navy plan counter measures.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: DRM and theft prevention

            "[...] to help the Royal Navy plan counter measures."

            IIRC There was a story that the Exocets weren't automatically detected as enemy missiles because France and UK cooperated in NATO.

          2. Old Tom

            Re: the French did share information on the Exocet with the British

            No according to today's Telegraph - the article claims that the British took apart an Exocet seeker head in order to help develop electronic counter measures.

            https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/03/full-story-falklands-war-exocets-deserves-told/

          3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: DRM and theft prevention

            As I recall, the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet fired at one of the carriers by a Super Etendard. It was decoyed by chaff.

            However they didn’t play as much part in the battle, as the Argentinian Navy basically ran back to port, as soon as the General Belgrano was sunk. Their carrier didn’t come out to play again, after that.

            I once read a very angry article by an Argentinian airforce colonel about his experiences in the war. It wasn’t us he was angry with, but their navy, who he felt left the army and airforce in the lurch. Their airforce took heavy casualties. The Belgrano was the biggest loss, but in percentage terms the aircrew suffered worse.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: DRM and theft prevention

      A stolen new/unregistered/unused iPhone is 'impossible' to brick

      I seem to remember the smash and grabs that happened at Apple Stores in NY and Chi-town, those phones were brickable as soon as someone turned them on and tried to use them. Apple knew exactly which phones went out the door, and put them on a "do not fly" list. Same goes for the truck load of Apple gear that got pinched in NL, as a whole unit those devices would not work, but I'm sure they can be used for spare parts.

      I'll check again with a friend who managed an Apple Store...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DRM and theft prevention

        Sounds about right. Apple will have the serial numbers and IMEI and the boxes will have been tracked to the store, so they will know which ones have been stolen and can get them put on the block list

    3. jwatkins

      Re: DRM and theft prevention

      John Deere make cruise missiles as well?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: DRM and theft prevention

        Not that I know of, but if Ukraine thinks it can build or improve them using JD parts they'll probably just do so.

        Crafty buggers, they are. Just look at the videos of octocopters dropping antitank grenades meant to be just thrown by hand (for which they 3D-printed tail fins) right on top of tanks and armoured vehicles, and in one case I saw right through the open sunroof of a 4WD.

        And even helicopters will look like a tank if you have an ATGM and are Ukrainian enough.

        1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Re: DRM and theft prevention

          >John Deere make cruise missiles as well?

          Only for their intellectual property rights enforcements.

  10. tel130y

    From an article previously published on Pornhub...

    1. Uncle Slacky
      Stop

      ITYM Cornhub...

  11. Sam Therapy
    Happy

    Apologies

    D'ye ken John Deere with his tractors dead?

    D'ye ken Vladimir with his face so red?

    D'ye ken John Deere with his tractors bricked?

    D'ye ken Vladimir is a complete dick?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Apologies

      D'ye ken Vladimir is a complete dick?

      Пу́тин (khuylo) is the word you want to use, even though it doesn't rhyme.

      And apropos of nothing, the diminuitive of Vladimir is Volodja, not Vlad as I too often see.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apologies

        "the diminuitive of Vladimir is Volodja,"

        Is that a regular type of diminutive construction in Russian?

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

          Re: Apologies

          Oh, yeah

          Ivan - Vanya

          Mikhail - Misha

          Aleksandr - Sasha

          Boris - Borya ;)

          Nadezhda - Nadya

          Ekaterina - Katya

          ...there's a friendly diminutive for everyone, it's practically Australian.

      2. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Apologies

        Hence the scene in episode 1 of Servant of the People, where Vasiliy is getting his presidential wristwatch: his aide is listing what other world leaders wear, leading to the incredulous Vasiliy clarifying "Putin's Hublot?".

        Episode 2 didn't get shown in Russia.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Traktor say nyet!

    No potato for you

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    101 uses for a dead NFT ?

    102: nackered farmer's tractor

  14. wolfetone Silver badge

    Nothing Pulls Like A Deere

    And nothing stinks like a John in Russia.

  15. tatatata
    Devil

    Maybe they teamed-up with AEG and that farm equipment now things it is a steam oven...

  16. Ashto5

    GPS & Automated Vehicles

    If you have all of that cant you just tell the kit to come home ?

    Or even have if FUBAR the planting / harvesting process if it is not in the place it should be ?

    Or you could take the pay to plant option

    Please swipe your credit card to operate the tractor bit like the fairground rides

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: GPS & Automated Vehicles

      Or you could take the pay to plant option

      Russian bank and credit cards are blocked from making foreign payments.

  17. Screwed

    I always thought the ability to brick things remotely needed to be applied to arms sales.

    I bet Russia wishes it could have bricked all the Russian/Soviet military equipment in Ukraine. And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

    Obviously, given time, the recipient might find a way round the remote bricking, if they knew it existed. So it would be best if it could be implemented in a stealthy way.

    Quite a difficult job to do well. And potentially embarrassing and inflammatory if found out.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I always thought the ability to brick things remotely needed to be applied to arms sales."

      I think the USA is leading that charge with the F-35.

      1. brianpope

        anyone care to comment on Trident ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If you mean the common myth that the UK can't fire it without permission from the USA ? All I can say is that it is a myth.

          1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge
            Mushroom

            Testing British Nukes

            Nukes are tricky about that. The bad consequences of a successful test (nuke launches, flies to its target, and goes boom) preclude testing. You can't prove a negative, so if you take the thing apart and examine it, and you find no cut-out, it doesn't mean there are no cut-outs. If you find a cut-out, you have to wonder if there's a second cut-out. If you find two cut-outs, you have to wonder if there's a third cut-out. If you ask the 'Murkans and they say, "There are no cut-outs", you gotta wonder if they lied, or if the person you spoke with was told a lie and believed it, then unwittingly told you the same lie. If the 'Murkans say, "Well, yes, there's a cut-out" and you take it apart to find and fix the cut-out, but don't find a cut-out, you don't know whether the 'Murkans lied or you just weren't good enough to find the cut-out.

            There are no good answers when you're dealing with nukes.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Testing British Nukes

              True, it's kinda hard to do a real test firing of a real missile with real warheads. But AIUI the ones they test fire are the very same missiles but with dummy warheads - and the warheads are our own (not bought from the US).

              So there is the possibility of the US missile detecting the difference between a real and dummy payload. But other than that, there isn't anything that could permit a test firing but not a real one.

              What there absolutely is not, is any means for the sub or the missile to contact a US server to get an activation key before it will fire. Comms with the strategic fleet are one-way only from when they dive on going out on patrol, until they resurface a few months later coming back. To transmit any message would give away their position, so it just doesn't happen - the BBC fantasy series "Vigil" had ... lets just say "quite a few inaccuracies" and I believe was written by an anti-nuclear activist which probably explains much of what you need to know about it.

  18. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

    That's not likely to bring much relief; most Russian fighter aircraft are Sukhois and MiGs; the Antonovs[0][1] they have are transport aircraft, and those don't appear to be used a lot at the moment.

    [0] I've had a flight in an Antonov 2A once. Fun. After some Cessna and Pipers, a number of WW2 fighters and the B24 it's the aircraft with the largest number manufactured as well as having the longest production run.

    [1] The BASTARDS destroyed the AN-225, the one six-engined transport jet that has been used in earnest, and which I've seen take off from Münster-Osnabrück airport one day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

      Many years ago a friend was travelling by a domestic air service inside Russia. Just before take-off they buckled their seat belt - and found that one end wsn't attached to anything.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

        Over time Russian jetliners will just brick themselves.

        Quite a number of them are leased Airbuses, Boeings, Embraers and Bombardiers, and just expropriating them doesn't mean you can now get the spare parts you need to service them; the parts embargoea stay just the same.

        And jets that are insufficiently serviced will stop flying one way or the other.

    2. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

      Where does the DC3/C47/Skytrain/R4D/Dakota fit on that list?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: And Ukraine might wish it could brick all Antonov aircraft used by Russia.

        16k, against 18k+ for the An2, with the Beech Bonanza and two fighter planes in between

  19. greatpix

    DEFINE "BRICKED"

    Apple can brick your phone. If they do, throw it away, it can't be "unbricked" by Apple or any whiz kid. Is this the case with a combine or tractor? Living in South Dakota I have long known about the ability to brick horrendously expensive farm equipment but have never understood if their definition of "brick" is the same as Apple's. If it is, then we need legislation to prevent that practice. My understanding is that in the U.S. farm equipment manufacturers no longer sell their equipment, only lease it and if that's the case, Bob's your uncle.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: DEFINE "BRICKED"

      They will be unbrickable - at a cost. Depends a lot on on how it's been bricked - e.g. if bad firmware has been loaded onto an ECU, it might mean replacing the ECU and re-coding everything else to work with it. Doable, but epensive and would need a) a replacement ECU and b) access to the software tools.

  20. Clarecats
    Alert

    Your turn, Toyota

    Pity Toyota can't brick its work vehicles. Though I am sure that might prove unpopular with everyone except warlords.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FiYb3Dm2uc

  21. Oliver Cromwell

    Bad News

    The fact that the farm equipment is bricked does not eliminate it's value. Almost all of the parts can and will be used as replacements. Given that Deere will or already has stopped replacement parts to Russia these replacement parts can only go up in value. The value of theses parts is much higher than a fully functional combine or tractor. Without sanctions this value would be much less.

    1. nobody who matters

      Re: Bad News

      Bearing in mind that the electronic parts (and many of the other major components) are chipped and need to be set up by the dealer diagnostics for the serial numbers to match the machine they are fitted to, it is not likely that many of the component parts of these machines will be of much use in repairing/keeping another machine going unless the person fitting it has access to the dealer exclusive software and the necessary set-up codes (which, as much of this will be cloud based, and therefore under control of John Deere will almost certainly have been blocked/disabled based on the serial numbers of the machines which have been stolen.

      Whether JD actually have the ability to trace via GPS and disable their machines in Europe in this way, I know not. However, it is likely that at least some (if not all) the machines in question are likely to have been made in John Deere's German factories, they may not have the same kind of lock down options that apply in the USA where they are permitted to actively prevent operators from doing anything to them at all.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Bad News

      Its also not very much kit. This sort of equipment is very expensive which is why having repair delays irritates farmers. So it sounds like a lot of machines but in reality its just a handful of units. They should be relocated and returned....but.....

      ...knowing the Russians they may get them running just to annoy us. They're not restricted by the DMCA like we are in the US so they'll be able to reverse engineer -- or re-engineer -- the control units.

      1. quxinot

        Re: Bad News

        I suspect if they do reverse engineer the controls, they'd find (after the war is over, etc) a very ready market worldwide that would like to use their equipment without JD's interference.

  22. SCP

    Two wrongs make a right

    It is probably good that these Wagons of Mass Production are taken out of the wrong hands.

    John Deere win this one on a lesser of two evils basis - but that does not make the "feature" good.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Two wrongs make a right

      No, it's a classic case of using "a bad thing" (e.g. think about the childrun) to justify something that under normal circumstances would not be acceptable. Two wrongs does not make a right - it makes for very wrong.

      1. SCP

        Re: Two wrongs make a right

        However, in this case rendering stolen products inoperable is not something that should generally be regarded as unacceptable (for example getting a stolen phone's IMEI blocked).

        Perhaps I should have titled the comment "Two wrongs make a right?" [NB the "?"] to emphasise the dubiousness of the phrase - something I addressed in the body of the comment. I was looking for an "edgy" title - so mea culpa.

        In the general case "two wrongs" do not make a right - but in this case John Deere do not appear to have commited a "wrong" [- at the request of the "owner" [the dealership from which the tractors were taken] they rendered them inoperable. That they were able to do so was by dint of a feature that would also be open to misuse by John Deere - and many believe it is misused to prevent "fair use and repair".

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Gimp

    Neil Parish says,

    "Tractors? PHWOOOR!!!"

  24. Tridac

    Remote bricking is a bit tenuous, as the tractor would need either a hardware network connector, usb or wifi to get a network address via dhcp. Only then could it respond to external commands and the commanding node would need to know the target address. For security reasons, it's probably programmed at the factory to only respond to a known address dhcp server at the local dealer. If it can't be connected to the web, it can't easily be bricked, if at all. Sounds liike a load of marketing fud to me...

    1. jake Silver badge

      "If it can't be connected to the web, it can't easily be bricked"

      Unless it has a cellular connection designed specifically for the factory to connect to the equipment. Which they do.

      The web? WTF said anything about that particular subset of TehIntrewebTubes?

  25. darklord

    Missing the bigger picture

    I doubt many Ukrainian farmers could afford the new shinny Deere's and the dealer decided to do an insurance job. and has seen the conflict as way of getting the capital back.

    Being an X farmer and saw the light and got out!!!!

    Farm equipment has become notoriously expensive since the 1980s, whereas the produce it produces cost in real terms has not increased in line with the required capital to create it.

    The land is where the money is hence housing estates and golf courses, And dontget me started on the old EU set aside payments. where land is left empty for years whilst the farmers where paid to not produce so the eu could import its produce here. Look where that got us, saw this coming in 1983 with milk quotas.

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