Tesla hacking contest

Hackers Win a Prize for Hacking into a Tesla Model S

Hackers are known for breaking into all sorts of computer systems.  After all, that’s what hackers do best. And some excel at it.

But… not all hackers are malicious deviants with demonically possessed little hearts with the sole purpose of making your life a living hell. Some hackers are what’s known as “white hat hackers” (those hired by corporations to test their systems).

Having your computer or website hacked can make for a very bad day, but having your car hacked  – while you’re driving it – has the potential to ruin your entire life.

Considering that our cars are becoming more like computers on wheels, it’s no surprise that hackers are including cars on their To Do list. How easy is it to hack into a car’s computer system and control it from a remote location? Apparently, easier than you might have thought. Systems that provide Bluetooth connections have the ability to control physical aspects of our cars, like locks, speedometer, even braking and turning.

Earlier this year Tesla hired Kristin Paget, formerly “Hacker Princess” (yes; women are great hackers, too) at Apple to help them find and secure any issues with the computer system.

Of all the new cars currently on the market, the Tesla Model S sets the benchmark when it comes to “computerized cars.” Their technology was the target for the contest at SyScan +360 (Symposium on Security for Asia Network) computer security conference in Beijing, China last week (July 16, 2014). The goal was to remotely control the car’s locks, horn, headlights and skylight, while the car was in motion, and the grand prize was $10,000.

And the Winner is…

South China Morning Post reports that the conference organizers said, “Tesla Software Hack Challenge ended with team “yo”, from ZheJiang University, coming in first overall and winning ¥10,600 RMB in prize money. No team succeeded in the mission of hacking Tesla’s door and engine within the timeframe of the challenge. Therefore no one received the grand prize of $10,000 USD.”

Tesla was not associated with the conference, nor did they sponsor the competition. They were, however, grateful for responsible security researchers and their ability to identify potential vulnerabilities. As reported on Bloomberg:

“While Tesla is not associated with the conference and is not a sponsor of the competition, we support the idea of providing an environment in which responsible security researchers can help identify potential vulnerabilities,” Palo Alto, California-based Tesla said in an e-mail. “We hope that the security researchers will act responsibly and in good faith.”