An Australian man pleaded guilty this week in the Magistrates Court to stalking his ex-girlfriend, largely through the use of an app that tracked and controlled her car.
The 38-year-old man, who worked as a mechanic for the Army’s Royal Australian Corps of Transport at the time, allegedly engaged in a string of unhinged behaviour that left his former partner with a fear of technology, according to a report for Australia’s ABC News.
“These crimes have made me feel unsafe. Made me fear the technology I once embraced and left me with a deep distrust of the cybersecurity protections and laws currently in place, now I know they can be exploited,” the victim, who works in digital technology, told the court, according to ABC. “As a professional working in the industry, it has shaken me to learn what the offender did to my car is even possible. As a victim it has caused trauma so deep that it’s hard to adequately describe.”
During the couple’s six-month relationship, the man allegedly helped his then-girlfriend buy a Land Rover. He allegedly obtained the VIN number and used it to set up an account on an app that allowed him to turn the car on and off and adjust the windows. The service also sent him email notifications that showed the location of her car.
ABC reports that the victim told the court that one night she woke up and saw the man standing at the edge of her bed. She reportedly said he stood quietly for what “seemed like an eternity,” then said in a low voice “you’re lucky it’s just me and not a robber or a bad person to do you harm.”
The woman said she only figured out about the man’s disturbing tracking method after her phone disappeared from her car. She told the court that she then checked her phone activity on her laptop and saw the man’s email account was open on her phone. The account allegedly showed the tracking notifications for her car, and maps of her office and parking location.
“I was in shock and fear for my life when I realised he was stalking me and had control of my car,” she told the court, according to ABC. “I had no phone to call for help and I didn’t want to tip him off that I was on to him, so I borrowed a phone and called my father.”
Police reportedly searched the man’s property and found a notebook that had a weapons list, along with their prices, and private information about the victim, including places she frequented and dates of classes she planned to take.
Land Rover spokesperson Stuart Schorr told Gizmodo, “Once the company was notified of the issue, the app was disabled.” He did not respond to a question about whether Land Rover would take any action to protect customers from this type of car hacking, but said, “Privacy protection is a priority for us and our customers.”