2013 Tesla Model S
The word "hack" is a little over-used in today's lexicon, but in the general sense it refers to the process of cracking the software system of a computer, a smartphone--or a car.
Many electric cars roll those three categories into one, and now the organizers of a computer security conference have set hackers a special challenge: To hack into a Tesla Model S electric car for a $10,000 prize.
Anyone who registers for the SyScan conference taking place in Beijing from 16-17 July is eligible to enter the competition, reports Forbes, and while the competition's rules haven't been revealed there will be a Model S on display for hacking experts to try their luck.
Tesla itself isn't involved in the competition in any official capacity, nor does it support the competition--but the company could learn lessons from anyone who does manage to crack its software.
Hacking could take many forms in the entirely-electric Tesla, from bringing up websites on its central display screen to operating major functions of the car from a remote computer.
Some enterprising individuals have already accomplished the former in the past, managing to run a web browser on the car's 17-inch screen.
In that instance, back in April, Tesla actually contacted the individual responsible warning that the car's warranty would be void should any changes be made.
Given the Model S's high-tech nature, it's no surprise that Tesla already takes security very seriously.
It has a full vulnerability disclosure program, allowing users to report any flaws in the car's system, and employed ex-Apple security expert Kristin Paget to improve the car's digital security.
Previous research has shown that even regular cars can be hacked, with individuals able to take control of cars from afar, hitting the brakes and jerking the steering wheel.
It's all fun and games when exploited experimentally, but the subtext is very sinister: As cars get more advanced, the likelihood of hacking and viruses increases.
A $10,000 prize might make hacking a Tesla a worthwhile pursuit for experts visiting the SyScan conference--but lessons learned could make electric cars a great deal safer in the future.