Tesla Motors was rocked by revelations that Chinese hackers apparently found a flaw in their Model S electric car which allowed them to unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the headlights while the car was moving. The company has vowed to fix any ‘legitimate vulnerability’ as a means of trying to calm the situation down.
Tesla Model S. Image: Google UK
The SyScan360 conference revealed the news; it is a platform for the international security and Chinese security communities to interact and its motto is “I hack, therefore I am.” According to a Weibo post (a social network); Qihoo 360 Technology Co’s IT department was able to take control of the car’s sunroof, headlights, door locks and horn.
While no details of the hack have been officially disclosed, it would appear the functions said to be under attack are available via the Tesla Smartphone app. It is possible for drivers to download this app which connects the Model S to their car through Bluetooth and enables cars to be locked and unlocked, the sunroof opened, the horn honked and the headlights to be flashed.
Additionally, this app is capable of providing GPS tracking, controlling air conditioning and monitoring the progress of charging the vehicle. Therefore, you can park your Tesla Model S at a suitable charging spot and go about your day until the battery is fully charged. If the hackers were able to get to the app or another layer of communication between the app and the car, their claims would be valid as all of the functions would be readily available.
Fixing a Flaw
The app is currently in version 1.2.2 and was released on 6 June. According to a spokesperson for Tesla, the company would work hard to repair any flaws it discovered and hoped the hackers would hand over the relevant information on the flaw to allow the fix before it was released to the public.
Another spokesperson talked with the Chicago Tribune and said that Tesla was not a sponsor of the competition and was in no way associated with the conference but it supported the idea of providing a means of identifying possible vulnerabilities. Tesla hopes that the security researchers will act in a responsible manner.
The chief executive of Tesla, Elon Musk, personally delivered the first fleet of right-hand drive Model S cars in the UK in June. Tesla plans to expand rapidly with more company stores and service centres set to open across the UK. Tesla cars were initially sold in China in April and it believes the Chinese market has the potential to match that of the United States by the end of 2015.
Musk is a billionaire who founded PayPal and is a space exploration entrepreneur as well as being the creator of electric cars. He recently donated $1 million to create a museum in honour of Nikola Tesla, the legendary inventor after responding to a plea made through the medium of an Internet cartoon!
His Tesla Motors company is of course named after the inventor who was involved in projects such as the creation of the electric motor, radio, X-rays and Tesla coil. The cartoon was created by Matthew Inman who cleverly mentioned how much he enjoyed driving the Tesla Model S in the cartoon while making his plea for cash.