Texan accused of disabling 100 cars over Internet

Mar 17, 2010 By JEFF CARLTON , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A man fired from a Texas auto dealership used an Internet service to remotely disable ignitions and set off car horns of more than 100 vehicles sold at his old workplace, police said Wednesday.

Austin police arrested Omar Ramos-Lopez, 20, on Wednesday, charging him with felony breach of .

Ramos-Lopez used a former colleague's password to deactivate starters and set off car horns, police said. Several car owners said they had to call tow trucks and were left stranded at work or home.

"He caused these customers, now victims, to miss work," Austin police spokeswoman Veneza Aguinaga said. "They didn't get paid. They had to get tow trucks. They didn't know what was going on with their vehicles."

Ramos-Lopez was in the Travis County Jail on Wednesday with bond set at $3,000. The Associated Press could not find a working phone number for his family.

The Texas Auto Center dealership in Austin installs GPS devices that can prevent cars from starting. The system is used to repossess cars when buyers are overdue on payments, said Jeremy Norton, a controller at the dealership where Ramos-Lopez worked. horns can be activated when repo agents go to collect vehicles and believe the owners are hiding them.

"We are taking extra measures to make sure this never happens again," Norton said.

Starting in mid-February, dealership employees noticed unusual changes to their business records. Someone was going into the system and changing customers' names, such as having dead rapper Tupac Shakur buying a 2009 vehicle, Norton said.

Soon, customers began calling saying their cars wouldn't start, or that their horns were going off incessantly, forcing them to disengage the battery. Norton said the dealership originally thought the cars had mechanical problems.

Then employees noticed someone had ordered $130,000 in parts and equipment from the company that makes the GPS devices.

Police said they were able to trace the sabotage to Ramos-Lopez's computer, leading to his arrest.

Norton said Ramos-Lopez didn't seem unusually upset about being fired.

"I think he thought what he was doing was a harmless prank," Norton said. "He didn't see the ramifications of it."

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User comments : 17

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addidis
5 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2010
honestly this is really funny sadly the guy is going to prison. Note to self use jerk bosses pc to hack 100 cars when i get fired. lol.
gopher65
4 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2010
It's not funny if you're a person who was fired from their job because they missed work after some jerk sabotaged their car. And it's not like he even had a beef with the customers. He was attempting to hurt a large number of people that he didn't know and had never met, just on the off-chance that it would inconvenience his former boss.

What kind of ass-hat does something like that?
designmemetic
5 / 5 (1) Mar 18, 2010
wow, I didn't realize loan agencies could mandate purchase and installation of hardware in addition to unbelievable interest rates. Do usury laws consider the cost to the consumer from "extra features installed for their benefit"? A loan for a $5000 car with a $1000 "security system" and a 15% interest rate is actually a loan at 30% interest rate and some unwanted hardware.
DGBEACH
3 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2010
As one of the key engineers who originally developed these types of systems, I can assure you all that this was a very isolated case!
The Texas Auto Center appears to have had very lax security measures in place when this occurred, and I'm sure they won't be solely using passwords any longer. A cheap fingerprint scanner could have saved alot of people alot of trouble...that, or a "2 user" requirement for over-the-air transactions.

The GOOD side of companies employing these devices in higher risk transactions is that they are able to maintain lower rates for their good customers, because they are less exposed to losses from the others. The fact is that these devices work well at keeping customers honest!

cheers
VOR
5 / 5 (1) Mar 18, 2010
So these GPS's also let the dealer know where the car is? I think there a chance that's true. If so its clearly an invasion of privacy. I for one would never buy such a car. I dont think the no-start feature is good either. I understand the need to keep loan risk down but I disagree these steps are necessary. Traditional risk controls work. Raise rates and down payments for low scoring buyers etc. If they said they'd give a lower rate if you agree to this equipment that's fine. As long as you have a choice.
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 19, 2010
If they said they'd give a lower rate if you agree to this equipment that's fine. As long as you have a choice.

In most cases, you do. And the GPS portion of the device has to be TRIGGERED, it is not always active. I know you Americans are very sensitive about your privacy, and that was one of the first issues which was addressed. It always amazes me though how marketing has made a system such as On-Star, which is essentially the same device, and installed in many GM models, more palatable. It really is all in the marketing !
NotAsleep
not rated yet Mar 19, 2010
@ DGBEACH, "You Americans"? Are all Canadians that condescending? Last time I checked, your country was as much of a bastion of freedom as ours. I don't think it's a matter of marketing so much as being given the OPTION to opt in/out. After doing absolutely zero research, I'll take your word that the GPS disablers are known to the buyer. However, if any companies are installing this without telling the customer, they should be banned from the market or relegated to the "rental car" sector
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 21, 2010
However, if any companies are installing this without telling the customer, they should be banned from the market or relegated to the "rental car" sector

Agreed. They should also receive hefty fines for their actions!
"You Americans"? Are all Canadians that condescending?

I guess you are just sensitive about everything, not just your privacy. What would you have me call you then...Obamites..."Those that occupy the area between us and Mexico"...or how about "the guys who triggered the recent worldwide economic turmoil that made my very well paying job, which fed my family, disappear"...?
Last time I checked, your country was as much of a bastion of freedom as ours.

Its our definitions of Freedom which are different. I had a whole list typed out but decided to delete them, as this is not the forum for this conversation.
Prathap_Rajamani
5 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2010
When an employee is fired, the internal System Security personnel should make sure that all relevant passwords are reset.

- Prathap Rajamani
maxcypher
not rated yet Mar 21, 2010
@DGBEACH, If you peruse the comments on this site, you'll see that this forum is constantly used for mad arguments between liberals/conservatives, evolutionists/creationists, climate warming/anti-climate warming... you name it! So, I for one, wouldn't mind seeing how our reasonable neighbors up north differ from us in their notions of freedom. So, throw down that list and see what trouble it brews.
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
OK.
1st-
In Canada, we have the Freedom to bring our children to the doctor, and to receive the care necessary for their treatment, regardless of our income levels- everyone is treated the same. In the USA you treat your low income population as "slackers", because they "just don't want to work"...poor people in your country literally DIE because they haven't had access to proper health care. Those SAME poor people stand next to you fighting in Afghanistan for their family's "freedom", but once they get back home they don't have the same "freedoms" which you enjoy.
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
2nd-
In Canada, for the most part, homosexual and racially mixed marriage is recognized and embraced just as any other union. Thus our population has the "Freedom" to marry whomever we wish. In the USA however, homosexuals and visible minorities still face open discrimination, which is created and nurtured throughout your so-called "Bible-belt". Associations between whites and non-whites is frowned upon...they have no "Freedom" of association.
Being a military man, you have undoubtedly seen this first hand!
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
3rd-
In Canada, we have the "Freedom" to travel to any country we wish. In the USA, you do not have this freedom. You haven't lived until you've smoked a freshly rolled Cuban cigar, and then smoked it slowly on a moonlit Cuban beach.
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
4th-
We have two Official languages in Canada, in recognition of the contribution which our French speaking population makes within our society, both today and historically. In the USA, non-English speakers are told to "SPEAK AMERICAN!".
We embrace our differences, whereas you shun them.
We have the "Freedom" to express ourselves in whichever language we wish.
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
All this being said, we also embrace the differences between us and other countries. However, most of us do cringe at the thought of living in a society which puts personal wealth ahead of the health and well being of its population- you are often "perceived" in other countries as being a people which eat their young, because of it!

...now, let the games begin :)
DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
And before you say that I don't know what I'm talking about, you must know that I lived in Florida for 12 years of my life, and I have seen the things which I mentioned first hand!
corticalchaos
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
@DGBEACH
i believe, sir, that you are missing one final word in your message(s), that word being 'meow'