Tesla's focus on fully-connected cars and software-driven design makes it easy to add self-driving features (assuming cars have the appropriate hardware, of course)

Tesla Motors Head-Hunts Hackers to Keep its Model S Secure

Following on from last month’s SyScan 360 white hat security conference, where hackers managed to circumvent the security protocols of Tesla’s all-electric luxury  Model S sedan, remotely operating door locks, horn and sunroof, the Californian automaker is looking to hire the best security researchers it can.

The Tesla Model S was hacked last month at the 2014 SyScan-360 conference. Now Tesla is beefing up its defences by hiring lots of  security researchers

The Tesla Model S was hacked last month at the 2014 SyScan-360 conference. Now Tesla is beefing up its defences by hiring lots of security researchers

As The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] was among one of a handful of well-known companies to make the trek from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, NV this weekend to attend the annual Def Con security conference. Known as one of the world’s most important white hat security conferences, Def Con attracts security experts and hackers from all around the world and is viewed not only as a place to learn about the latest security flaws and hacking practices but also to network and plan ways to keep the world’s Internet-connected devices safe from malicious attack.

For Tesla however, Def Con was the ideal place to recruit experts to join its security devision. Following its standard practice of only hiring the best possible talent, Tesla sent its very own ‘Hacker Princess’ Kristin Paget to root out the best talent she could to join the Palo Alto company.

Paget, who joined Tesla back in February is herself a hacker with a long, established reputation for helping companies patch security flaws in their software. Before Tesla, she spent a year working at Apple and before that, she helped Microsoft secure Windows Vista.

Tesla's own 'hacker princess' went to this year's Def Con on a recruiting drive to ensure your Model S won't be remotely hijacked.

Tesla’s own ‘hacker princess’ went to this year’s Def Con on a recruiting drive to ensure your Model S won’t be remotely hijacked.

As Paget told The Wall Street Journal, Tesla is looking to hire between 20 and 30 security researchers from Def Con alone, while those who simply contact Tesla with details of a security bug or flaw will be sent a platinum-coloured ‘Challenge Coin’ in recognition of their work.

Those who report a bug and turn up at Tesla’s Fremont factory, where the Model S is made, will even be given a free tour — provided they let security know before hand, that is.

As you might expect, neither Tesla nor  Paget were keen on discussing any pressing security flaws in public, but it’s worth noting that Tesla already has a fairly impressive hacker hall of fame on its website, listing those who have already spotted — and reported — security flaws in Tesla software.

Regardless of this however, Tesla’s presence at Def Con tells us one very important thing: it isn’t about to let what happened in China last month happen again, hacking competition or not.

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  • D. Harrower

    I actually surprised Tesla made it this long without its software being breached.nnHowever, all critical systems (accelerator, brakes, safety systems, etc) in the vehicle are isolated from the vulnerable ones (door locks, entertainment, etc) so hackers should be limited to nuisance attacks.nnThough, I could see a resourceful (and ambitious) group putting door lock circumvention to creative uses. Preventing this will probably be Tesla’s biggest security challenge.

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