Hackers take control of a Tesla on the road - from 12 miles away


The potential dangers of connected and driverless cars have been put into the spotlight by a team of hackers that took remote control of a Tesla Model S while it was moving.

Now, before we go any further, it's worth pointing out that the hackers (a research team from China's Keen Security Lab), have worked closely with Tesla to patch the vulnerability already. But it does throw into relief the new security issues that networked cars face.

By connecting the car to a dodgy Wi-Fi hotspot, the Keen team were able to exploit the car's dashboard web browser, giving them control of everything from the sun roof and entertainment system to, most worryingly, the car's brakes.

Bringing new meaning to remote control cars

The hackers didn't even have to be nearby to pull off the attack, instead gaining access to the car from 12 miles away.

You can see the team discussing what they pulled off in the video below:

Tesla patched the problem within 10 days of being notified, and stated that the conditions needed to pull it off were so narrow that Tesla owners need not panic.

"The issue demonstrated is only triggered when the web browser is used, and also required the car to be physically near to and connected to a malicious wifi hotspot," Tesla said in a statement.

"Our realistic estimate is that the risk to our customers was very low, but this did not stop us from responding quickly."

It's reassuring to see Tesla take a pro-active approach in partnering up with the research team, which will hopefully help prevent any future nasty hacks of this nature from occurring. Still, it doesn't bear thinking about what could have happened should this exploit have been discovered by a more nefarious group first.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.