Tesla Model S Autopilot testing with IIHS [CREDIT: IIHS]
Cybersecurity is big for cars, and a Tesla proved why last week.
The thief used Tesla's smartphone app to open and drive away in a Model S from the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to a Fox News report.
The car was stolen from Trevla, a company that rents Teslas at the mall.
"I think this guy had a next level of information on how to do it," John Marino, the owner of Trevls told the news station. The thief reportedly rented Teslas from Trevla at least a half-dozen times, and repeatedly bragged to Marino about his extensive knowledge of Tesla's electronic security systems.
In response to a rash of thefts in Europe by thieves cloning the RFID signature of the cars' remote key fobs, Tesla implemented a new optional PIN code on the Model S and Model X that owners can require before driving their cars, according to a report in the Australian TechGuide.com.
If the feature is turned on, once the car recognizes the key fob and boots up, a key-pad appears on the center touch screen for the driver to enter the PIN, which they have to do before they can drive the car. Alternately, drivers can enter their Tesla account credentials.
Teslas are among the most connected cars in the world, with a remote app that can control many features of the car, wireless over-the-air software updates, and even a remote-controlled parking app that can be operated with a cell phone.
That proved helpful when police went to track the Model S stolen from Trevls. The thief had disabled the car's GPS systems, as he planned to drive the car to Texas. Tesla, however, was able to track the car every time the thief stopped to charge at one of its Supercharging stations between Minnesota and Texas, where he was arrested three days later.
Computer forensics specialist Mark Lanterman told Fox News he doesn't think the thief actually hacked into the Tesla's software, but called the company and convinced Tesla to add the car's VIN number to his Tesla account. With that, he could send the car any command he wanted.