The Tesla and Jeep Hacks: What We Know and Don’t Know


Thought Leadership

The Tesla and Jeep Hacks: What We Know and Don’t Know

Troy Gill

In today’s fast-paced market, new technologies are rushed to market as quickly as possible and all too often, security is an afterthought. This is likely the case with most smart car technologies entering the market, including the Tesla Model S that was hacked by two researchers and their laptop. While automakers may have taken some security measures, these recent Tesla and Jeep hacks should be cause for some concern. It seems that there is a big push to make cars Internet-connected at all times and while this can enable lots of cool features and capabilities, it also creates an interesting challenge for would-be attackers.

It’s difficult to predict if this will ever be a viable threat since the technology is new, giving those outside of design floor limited insight to their functionality.  But it can’t be entirely ruled out either since a determined hacker will explore all possible avenues.

The mobile device vector is something that may have potential to be exploited, although attacks aren’t necessarily imminent probably because the majority of black hats are motivated by profit. So unless there is some financial incentive, most hackers will not waste their time. That being said, there are also plenty of hackers out there that like to break things just to prove that they can and those are the ones we should be worried about.

At least in the case of Tesla, we can take solace in the fact that they needed actual physical access to the car’s computer to commit this hack, and that Tesla was able to quickly create a security patch. And unlike the massive 1.4 million Chrysler recall following the Jeep Grand Cherokee hack, Tesla was able to issue the patch via a software update. Drivers simply had to select “Yes” on their dashboard touchscreen to be protected, which is hopeful for the future security of smart cars.

Here's a shot of some car hacking taking place right now at Defcon 23: