Tesla Model S hacked by researchers

Tesla is an advanced computer on wheels. How is security for such systems designed ? Snippets from below are insightful.

http://www.wired.com/2015/08/researchers-hacked-model-s-teslas-already/

“Two researchers have found that they could plug their laptop into a network cable behind a Model S’ driver’s-side dashboard, 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.”

“Tesla distributed a patch to every Model S on the road on Wednesday. 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, Tesla has the ability to quickly and remotely deliver software updates to its vehicles. Car owners only have to click “yes” when they see a prompt asking if they want to install the upgrade.”

“The Model S has a 17-inch touchscreen that has two critical computer systems. One is an Ubuntu server responsible for driving the screen and running the browser; the other is a gateway system that talks to the car. The Tesla gateway and car interact through a vehicle API so that when a driver uses the touchscreen to change the car’s suspension, lock the doors, or engage its parking brake, the touchscreen communicates with the gateway through an API, and the gateway communicates with the car. The touchscreen never communicates directly with the car. “At least so our research has found so far,” Mahaffey says.”

“The Model S has an Ethernet cable for diagnostic purposes and by connecting to this they were able to get access to the car’s LAN. This allowed them to uncover information about the firmware update process, such as the configuration of the VPN the car used to obtain updates as well as the URLs from where the updates were downloaded. They also found four SD cards inside the car that contained keys for the VPN structure, and they found unsecured passwords in an update file that allowed them to gain access to the Tesla firmware update server. “By using the VPN credentials we got from the SD card, we were able to configure and open VPN clients to go and talk to Tesla’s infrastructure and mimic the car.”

Even though Tesla provided the update quickly, having unsecured passwords in a file that allowed access to go to the firmware update server should alert one to the risks of connected cars.

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