A whole pile of cars has been remotely disabled in Austin, Texas, by a mischievous hacker who accessed a vehicle-immobilisation system normally used to chase after people who are late with their lay-away payments.

The culprit has been fingered as 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez, a former worker at a car shop who was laid off earlier in the month. Texas Auto Center manager Martin Garcia told Threat Level: "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 trouble eventually stopped after the auto centre reset the passwords for the system that controls the remote black box, and shortly afterwards police traced the offender by his IP address. While his account had been disabled after he was fired, he'd been using another employee's account to cause the chaos.

The incident raises plenty of questions about whether such devices should be installed in cars, but proponents say that they allow lower-income households to gain access to automobiles that they may not otherwise be able to be afford. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.