The Tesla Model S can be hacked, but the Tesla hack is fundamentally different than the Jeep Cherokee hack.
Researchers Kevin Mahaffey and Marc Rogers have found that they could hack the Tesla Model S by plugging their laptop into a network cable behind a Model S’ driver’s-side dashboard to start the car with a software command, and drive it. They could also plant a remote-access Trojan on the Model S’ network while they had physical access, then later remotely cut its engine while someone else was driving.
Limited Danger To Tesla Hack
Hackers can take control of the Model S dashboard control screens, speedometer, windows and hand brake. There’s one caveat, however. The hackers need physical access to the car (at some point).
The researchers found six vulnerabilities in the Tesla car and worked with the company for several weeks to develop fixes for some of them.
Tesla has the ability to quickly and remotely deliver software updates to its vehicles (similar to how to how your smartphone gets software fixes), unlike Fiat Chrysler, which recently had to issue a recall for 1.4 million cars and mail updates to users on a USB stick to fix vulnerabilities found in its cars. It’s unknown how many of the 1.4 million drivers will implement the update.
Though the Tesla hacks highlight some of the dangers surrounding digitally connected cars, the researchers’ findings are not as serious as those demonstrated against a Chrysler Jeep.
But there are still unanswered questions about how strongly Tesla’s gateway protects its drive system from a hacker seizing total control of a car. The touchscreen never communicates directly with the car, at least as far as the research has found to date.
It’s All About Security
Tesla touts environmental friendliness and savings on gas costs as two of the big perks of its electric cars. But security may turn out to be a winning feature as well. Regardless of the issues found with the Model S, researchers Mahaffey and Rogers still considers it the most secure car they’ve seen.
For more, see Time Magazine.