Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Wednesday, Feb 01, 2023

Teen's Tesla hack shows how vulnerable third-party apps may make cars

Teen's Tesla hack shows how vulnerable third-party apps may make cars

A German teenager says he found a vulnerability in an app installed in some Teslas, which allowed him the ability to unlock doors, flash headlights and blast music. The hack highlights the relative lack of oversight in apps that some drivers can download to their cars.

David Colombo identified a vulnerability in TeslaMate, a third-party app that some Tesla owners use to analyze data from their vehicle. He was able to access 25 Teslas that use the app, and he did not have access to steering, braking or acceleration, which could be especially dangerous.

The exploit did unlock a litany of potential unwelcome possibilities for drivers, the hacker said.

"Imagine music blasts at max volume and every time you want to turn it of [sic] it just starts again or imagine every time you unlock your doors they just lock again," Colombo, the 19-year-old behind the hack, wrote in a Medium post detailing the hack. Colombo said that he could even track the location of Tesla vehicles as their owners went about their day.

Colombo told CNN Business that he immediately reported the vulnerability that enabled the hack to involved parties, including Tesla. Colombo leads a cybersecurity company, and it is not uncommon for security researchers to seek out software vulnerabilities for potential compensation. Tesla offers cash incentives to people who report flaws in its software, but Colombo said he wasn't paid as the vulnerability was in a third-party app, not Tesla infrastructure.

(TeslaMate and Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.)

Cars, including Teslas, have been hacked before. But cybersecurity experts believe this is the first time a vehicle has been hacked through an app that has been granted access direct access to some vehicle controls and data. TeslaMate software is installed on a computer that is not the vehicle, and then accesses the vehicle through its interface for apps. Apps can delight drivers with services their car wouldn't otherwise have, as well as create new revenue for automakers through app-related fees.

But cybersecurity experts caution that the auto industry must mature, as there are growing risks as in-car apps become increasingly common in the years ahead.

"[Automakers] need to think about self-defending cars before self-driving cars," Srinivas Kumar, a vice president at the cybersecurity company DigiCert who leads efforts to protect connected devices, told CNN Business. "If a car can't defend itself from an attack, do you trust it to be self-driving?"

Colombo said that preventing future hacks will require collaboration between automakers, app makers and car owners.

One way to prevent a hack of this nature, he said, would be if Tesla more thoroughly restricted apps' access to data and commands. For example, an app could be restricted to only be able to view data, such as whether the doors are locked, but not be able to unlock them.

"In a perfect world those apps in an app store that you could download to your Tesla wouldn't have access to anything critical," Colombo said.

Third-party apps are increasingly becoming available in new cars. Some newer models offer a limited range of apps on their infotainment system. Some Cadillac drivers can download Spotify, NPR and the Weather Channel, for instance. Newer Ford models offer apps like Waze, Domino's and Pandora.

Tesla has not officially launched a way for app creators to add apps to its vehicles. But tech savvy Tesla enthusiasts have written about how to do so.

Moshe Shlisel, the CEO of Israeli cybersecurity company GuardKnox, said that automakers should scrutinize apps that end up on their vehicles to ensure safety. GuardKnox is developing a way for cars to monitor their apps and shut them down if they're doing something wrong, such as communicating to an off-limits part of the vehicle.

"It's a wake-up call to the entire industry," Shlisel said of Colombo's hack.

He expects that cars in the future will have hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from.

General Motors reviews apps and scans them for vulnerabilities, according to spokesman Darryll Harrison. Ford, which also allows a limited set of apps on some vehicles, declined to comment for this story.

But screening apps displayed on infotainment systems won't stop a person with sophisticated technical abilities from running an app on a vehicle independent of the automaker's approval. This could be done through a USB connection or an over-the-air vulnerability as occurred in the Tesla hack, according to cybersecurity experts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released best practices for cybersecurity in 2016, but it hasn't created standards for apps installed in vehicles. Neither has the auto industry.

"Right now it's open season," Shlisel said.


Related Articles

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
If a country is denied the right to independence by another, it is not in a union. It is in a dictatorship.
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
Prince William's godmother resigns honorary royal role after exposing her/their racism
British PM Rishi Sunak pledges further action on strikes to 'protect lives'
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman.
Double standards: UK lawmakers attack EU chief over Ireland claims