Security contest techies say they hacked Tesla Model S

July 19, 2014 by Nancy Owano

Tesla Model S

The good news: Tomorrow's cars are computers on wheels. The bad news: Tomorrow's cars are computers on wheels. Ma Jie, writing in Bloomberg News, reported this week that the Tesla Model S sedan was the target of a hacking contest in Beijing and apparently the hackers won.

Chief executive Elon Musk said that he would investigate and take immediate action to rectify any legitimate vulnerability to hackers. The hacks were carried out at the SyScan 360 conference in Beijing, (SyScan stands for Symposium on Security for Asia Network.) Qihoo 360 Technology Co. found ways to remotely control the Tesla car's locks, horn, headlights and skylight while the car was in motion, said Bloomberg News. Qihoo 360 Technology is a Beijing-based Internet security company. "After conducting a series of security tests, we found the Tesla car can be remotely unlocked, the horn honked, the lights flashed, or the sun roof opened while it's running," Qihoo 360 Technology said on its official microblogging Weibo account.

The SyScan site noted on its site that it is "one of the best known Internet security conferences in Asia," having held more than 22 conferences since 2004. In December 2012, "SyScan came to Beijing, China, for the very first time, jointly organized with Qihoo 360, the largest internet security company in China to hold SyScan360." Dan Goodin, security editor at Ars Technica, reported on Thursday that SyScan 360 organizers had promised $10,000 as part of a hacking competition involving the Tesla car. "As of press time," he said, "no other information was available about the specifics of the reported hacks." Seth Rosenblatt of CNET reported that "Qihoo 360 said it reported the hack to Tesla and offered to work with the automaker to fix the vulnerability."

Musk said in June that the automaker's patents will be "open source" and available at no charge as it seeks to expand adoption of battery-powered cars.

Earlier this year, Tesla announced it will sell its battery-powered Model S sedan in China and began China deliveries this year.

In a statement, Tesla said, "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." the company said in a statement. "We hope that the security researchers will act responsibly and in good faith."

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