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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Deere invites students to hack into onboard computers


With golf course maintenance equipment more reliant than ever on technology, hacking into onboard computer systems is a source of concern.

John Deere recently invited 20 college students from around the country to try to do just that. 

The week-long event called the Cyber Tractor Challenge was part of the company’s efforts to proactively find and address vulnerabilities within its operating systems while also attracting some of the best talent in the world.

"We have a room full of bright engineers who are aspiring embedded software engineers as well as security hackers," said John Kubalsky, business information security officer for tech stack and cloud.

The students, whose experience ranged from undergraduates to PhD candidates specializing in the fields of computer engineering, electrical engineering, industrial technology and cyber security, were excited by the opportunity to work with us.

"I have some experience in the ag-tech industry, so it's relevant to what I already know," said University of Illinois student Josh Park. "And it would just be fun hacking tractors. That's fun."

Kubalsky said the first-year event is a great way for Deere to find people with the skills the company needs.

"There is a real need for people that have the talents that they have to come and help us find where there might be some holes or opportunities in our products," Kubalsky said, "so we can button those up, continue to be that premiere ag equipment and technology producer, and keep our customers safe in the field."

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