We’ve talked before about hacking the computer controls in modern cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S, but this is the first time we’ve seen a prize for doing it.
Like most modern vehicles, the Tesla Model S is a combination of hardware and software controls. Practically everything, from the power windows to the electric powertrain, is controlled by one or more computers. Adding wireless access for powertrain reflashing and software updates makes it so a hacker doesn’t even need to touch the car to interfere with it, unlike when a couple of guys got into a Toyota Prius and wrested control from the driver via electronic power steering tweaking. Of course, some hackers just do it because they can, but wouldn’t a $10,000 prize from Chinese computer security company SyScan sweeten the deal?
SyScan and one of the sponsors of the $10,000 prize have already been able to hack into the controls systems of the Tesla Model S, disabling important safety systems, such as anti-lock braking or traction control. On the other hand, these are minor in comparison to taking complete control away from the driver. Imagine if, getting into your car, it suddenly locked all the doors and sped, out of your control, to some unknown destination for unknown purposes?
In spite of the prize money offered, only one team, from ZheJiang University, managed to remotely open all the doors of a Tesla Model S. They took home a small prize, but the $10,000 grand prize for full remote control is still unclaimed. For now, it appears that Tesla Model S’ electric powertrain, battery pack, and charging system, are secure, but how long will it be before we hear, “You are having an accident,” from the speakers? Tesla Motors, of course, hopes that such activities are planned “in good faith,” and that any vulnerabilities would be reported to the company. Perhaps the best course of action would be to Tesla Motors itself to hire people to hack its own product, something Forbes suggests of Quihoo, a Chinese internet security company.
Image © Commentarama Films