Tesla CTO Hikes Hacking Bounty To $10K (And Does A Shot)


2016 Tesla Model S

2016 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

Tesla Motors chief technology officer JB Straubel appeared at Def Con last week to thank the hackers who uncovered vulnerabilities in Model S electric car software.

And, since he was a newbie at the annual hacker convention in Las Vegas, Straubel had to do more than shake hands.

Organizers made him take a shot of Glenlivet scotch--a Def Con tradition.

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Straubel also used the appearance to announce a hike in Tesla's hacking bounty to $10,000, according to The Register.

The Tesla CTO personally thanked the two researchers who demonstrated a Model S hack last week--Kevin Mahaffey, CTO of security firm Lockout, and Cloudfare security researcher Marc Roger.

The pair explained how their hack was accomplished in a presentation at the convention.

Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

The feat required physical access to a Model S, as researchers had to plug a laptop into the network port behind the dashboard on the driver's side.

This allowed them to start the car, was well as plant software that would subsequently allow them to access its systems remotely.

Once this was in place, they were able to use a "telnet" connection to cut power to the Model S via cell-phone signal, reports Wired.

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This would blank all of the in-car screens and--at speeds of 5 mph or less--engage the emergency brake to stop the car.

At higher speeds, the hackers found the car would disengage its powertrain and coast, but retain the power steering so the driver could maneuver safely to the side of the road.

Other vulnerabilities allowed hackers to take control of various car systems, including the doors, windows, air suspension, and speed readout.

Tesla Model S 85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Tesla Model S 85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

This was done by exploiting what were described as a few fairly small vulnerabilities in unison, letting the hackers gradually gain greater access to the car's systems.

Tesla's presence at Def Con shows the carmaker--like every other--is taking these issues extremely seriously.

Straubel also announced that Tesla is raising the bounty offered to hackers who find security flaws, from $1,000 to $10,000.

The company is seeking to hire more security researchers; it had its own booth at the convention--complete with a Model S for showgoers to inspect.

[hat tip: Hugh Crawford]

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