AUSTIN, Texas — Pay Technologies (PayTeck)’s online vehicle immobilization system helped authorities identify and arrest a fired employee who allegedly sabotaged the starter-interrupt systems equipping vehicles sold by his former dealership.
After being fired by the Texas Auto Center, Omar Ramos-Lopez, 20, logged in to the dealership’s online vehicle immobilization system to interrupt the starter function outfitting customer vehicles. In some case, Ramos-Lopez activated the vehicles’ horns.
Pay Technologies LLC (PayTeck), creator of WebTeck and other starter-interrupt systems, responded immediately to the dealer’s service call, first changing all passwords and then providing a list of actions for the dealership to reverse all of the former employee’s vehicle shut-off and/or horn commands. The PayTeck software was then also able to capture all the information, helping police officers with Austin’s High Tech Crime Unit to identify and arrest Ramos-Lopez. He was charged with computer intrusion on March 16.
“Over the last 10 years, PayTeck has developed very secure, high-quality equipment and provides dealer support that goes above and beyond troubleshooting,” says James Krueger, president and CEO of the Cleveland-based firm. “The situation was handled seamlessly, and because of the information we maintain, we can react in the rare case that an upset occurs.”
Krueger said stories published in outlets such as WIRED magazine inaccurately labeled Ramos-Lopez as a “hacker.” He said that incident was instead a case of “inside invasion” because the alleged perpetrator had the dealership’s login and password to enter the system.
“Logins and passwords are the keys to the door at the dealership, and when employees leave, you need to take the keys back or change them,” Krueger warned. ”When personnel changes occur, dealers are encouraged to immediately change logins and passwords”
To date, PayTeck has hundreds of thousands of these units in service. Krueger said the Texas incident was the only time the system had been breached. Krueger said PayTeck changes usernames and passwords at any time. He added that while it’s the dealer’s responsibility to manage the system, PayTeck does provide consultation and technological backup to help dealers make smart decisions before and after cars are connected to the system.
Ultimately, PayTeck and similar systems are an alternative to the repo man, but they serve an important function of allowing dealers to take a chance on car buyers with less-than-perfect credit. Rather than declining them the opportunity to drive a car, the dealer can install a system like PayTeck’s WebTeck Plus in the car, and gain some peace of mind knowing that the system can be implemented to shut off a car’s starter if payment is not received in a timely manner.
“It’s insurance for dealers’ accounts receivables and a tool that allows salespeople at dealerships to extend car ownership to these risky customers,” Krueger said.
The secure technology works by issuing commands through a Website and relaying them through a wireless pager or cellular network to allow dealerships to disable a car’s ignition system or start its horn. The dealer controls which cars get controllers, at what point to activate the system, and who at the dealership gets a login and password to immobilize vehicles. Some dealers choose one point person to manage the system while others distribute the login/password to hundreds of employees, said Krueger.
“What we hope dealers take away from this story is that it’s important to manage logins and passwords carefully, and to invest in a system that is secure and backed up by the type of technological support that will ensure that any breaches, should they occur, are managed efficiently and effectively,” Krueger said.