Horn Honks Not From Impatient Drivers



In a similar vein to my post this week on the appeal of facial recognition software for stalkers, this defendant misused technology to saddle his former employer with plenty of reimbursement payments to customers as well as lots of lost sleep for management:

More than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the horns honking out of control, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to get the attention of consumers delinquent in their auto payments.

Police with Austin’s High Tech Crime Unit on Wednesday arrested 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez, a former Texas Auto Center employee who was laid off last month, and allegedly sought revenge by bricking the cars sold from the dealership’s four Austin-area lots.

“We initially dismissed it as mechanical failure,” says Texas Auto Center manager Martin Garcia.

“We started having a rash of up to a hundred customers at one time complaining. Some customers complained of the horns going off in the middle of the night. The only option they had was to remove the battery.”

The dealership used a system called Webtech Plus as an alternative to repossessing vehicles that haven’t been paid for.

Operated by Cleveland-based Pay Technologies, the system lets car dealers install a small black box under vehicle dashboards that responds to commands issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager network.

The dealer can disable a car’s ignition system, or trigger the horn to begin honking, as a reminder that a payment is due. The system will not stop a running vehicle.

Texas Auto Center began fielding complaints from baffled customers the last week in February, many of whom wound up missing work, calling tow trucks or disconnecting their batteries to stop the honking.

The troubles stopped five days later, when Texas Auto Center reset the Webtech Plus passwords for all its employee accounts, says Garcia.

Then police obtained access logs from Pay Technologies, and traced the saboteur’s IP address to Ramos-Lopez’s AT&T Internet service, according to a police affidavit filed in the case.

Ramos-Lopez’s account had been closed when he was terminated from Texas Auto Center in a workforce reduction last month, but he allegedly got in through another employee’s account, Garcia says.

“Omar was pretty good with computers,” says Garcia.
Projecting forward a few months, I wonder:

Will Omar be able to list the "good with computers" quote on his resume after he serves his time in prison and is looking for a job through their correctional work-release program?

20 comments:

Javajune said...

Oh my I had never heard of this. I can't believe it. Great story. Did the customers know this little black box was under the dash board? Technology is kind of scary and intrusive. This story gave me a little laugh-great way to start a weekend!
xo-jj

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

I have to admit this is pretty fun. Way to think outside the box Omar!

jaymiethorne said...

Wow, wrong target. I also wonder if the customers knew that this device was on their vehicle. I don't know that a malfunctioning car would make me think to look and see if the check had cleared. Hmmm...

Herding Cats said...

Wow. Clever way to seek revenge...scary too.

LadyFi said...

Amazing how modern technology can be abused! Unfortunately.

michellegilliam said...

Just wanted to say thanks for your encouraging words!I have a few big brother questions from a little sister blogger if you have the time.

Momma Fargo said...

Left an award for you on my site. HONK! Had to get your attention.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
This is the kind of revenge that seems to be almost cinematic! However, what a gross misuse of privilege.

I had a dentist that wanted to do this. He wished he could insert a chip in everyone's filling that would go off if their check bounced. Can you imagine? There you are a Dillard's or a restaurant, and then beep-beep-beep!

Have a Great Weekend! Sunny and full of fun!
Ann T.

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

Say What!! Now I have taught you about asparagus pee and I have learned a little more about car horns :-) Honnk Honk!!

BobKat said...

Good post! But "stealing" another users account doesn't mean you're good with computers. It means the guy was a thief. Now if he hacked into a admin account and was able to steal accounts, then that's better, and stuff like that really should be felony. It's identity theft too.

Audrey Allure said...

Haha, even though what he did was wrong it was pretty clever too. I guess he was really angry about getting laid off.

BobKat said...

I get the feeling some people admire this guy! Sure, tougher economy than ever, and it's human nature to seek revenge in some cases. And it's even, ironically, funny, that this guy could seek revenge by logging into a basic account after being let-go, to cause so much mayhem.

But seriously... what level of behavior have we accepted as a society if this guy is seen as something of a clever guy? I feel, Slam Dunk is showing us how times have changed. Technology has advanced so much in the past 30 years that it almost makes it easy to use it as a means to get back at a society that used to take a purely physical approach, but now, it provides a way to almost make it acceptable, a way to get back at people with a sense of being invisible, and somehow disconnected from the reality of what's being done to hurt others.

I don't think it's fair what's happening to people today - given the expectations and complications technology has brought upon society. I work in technology, and seriously, it's killing me. I was much happier doing simple blue-collar work for many years. The fact is... we have to adapt to a culture that has changed drastically, and we might die trying, but really, the secret to success isn't clever ways to get back at someone we feel wronged by, it's showing restraint, and using our cleverness to blog, as a way of expressing ourselves, or collecting electronic data as prove of wrongful dismissal.

Private investigators have for years been hired to sort out people like Tiger Woods... today, you can be your own investigator, or you could easily terrorize others. Personally, I choose to blog.

terri said...

Well, maybe that "good with computers" thing and his creative imagination might override the fact that he went to prison for misusing both. But I doubt it.

Natalie said...

The downside of technology!!! I can see how this webtech info would be useful for the dealer to get paid, but it's been proven that it can go overboard when vendettas come to play.

Oz Girl said...

I had never heard of this type of technology before... very interesting. But it's quite a shame that a former employee was able to abuse this technology, and inconvenience innocent customers.

Rowe said...

The wonders of technology. Perhaps they could start working on similar technology that will disable a car about to be driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol.

Slamdunk said...

I thought this guy was a creative felon.

@ Ann T.: Good comparison. I did not think of it that way.

@Bob: I am sure authorities loaded the guy up on charges and he will paying back for his acts for a long time.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I have never heard of that particular device either and I'm with @jaymiethorne: not sure I would check my car payment if my car wasn't working - I'd probably call AAA instead!

Your final comment about Omar listing computer skills on his resume gave me a good laugh!

Holly said...

Yep...I would totally use the works good with computers" line on his resume. Isn't that what every employer is looking for an ex-con that's good with computers.

Alexysc said...

Technological advancement is good. The problem is that abusing and misuse of technology is of great concern to the world.