Cyber security experts have successfully hacked into a Tesla Model S, shutting down the car while it was driving.
The security breach was done by white hat hackers, a slang term for specialists that test systems for weaknesses to assess an organization’s security. Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer of cybersecurity company Lookout, and Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at Cloudflare, executed the hack.
“We shut the car down when it was driving initially at a low speed of 5 mph,” said Rogers, as reported by Autoweek. “All the screens go black, the music turns off and the handbrake comes on, lurching it to a stop.”
The duo said they picked Tesla as their target because “the company has a better reputation for understanding software than most automakers,” said Autoweek.
What the article doesn’t mention is that the hackers didn’t breach the Tesla’s security remotely. According to the carmaker, Mahaffey and Rogers hacked into the computer from inside the car, which is an important distinction.
“Our security team works closely with the security research community to ensure that we continue to protect our systems against vulnerabilities by constantly stress-testing, validating, and updating our safeguards,” said a Tesla representative.
Unlike the recent security breach affecting 1.4 million Jeep Cherokees, Tesla won’t need to issue a recall to fix the vulnerability. That’s because the carmaker already has the ability to send updates to its vehicles through an automated wireless connection.
“Similarly to how you receive updates to your smartphone, Model S owners download these updates from Tesla via Wi-Fi or a cellular connection,” a Tesla representative explained. “A button will pop up on a Model S’ 17-inch touch screen, and an owner can select a time to download the latest version of software. The ability to receive these features and fixes is free for the life of the vehicle and is one more way that Tesla is redefining auto-ownership.”
Within days of being hacked, Tesla had already created a software patch to fix the security issue, and has delivered these to Model S owners.