Elon Musk recognizes hackers who altered Tesla Autopilot behavior


Tesla CEO Elon Musk has praised the efforts of Chinese security research firm Tencent Keen Security Lab, which was able to hack into a Tesla Model S with Autopilot. Musk approved of the group’s efforts on Twitter, describing the hackers’ latest research as “solid work.”

“Solid work by Keen, as usual,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

Tencent Keen Security Lab outlined their findings in a blog post on Monday, stating that it was able to activate the Model S’ automatic windshield wipers using a special computer generated image. The group was also able to trick Autopilot’s lane-keeping capabilities by putting specific markings on a road. Lastly, the group successfully controlled the steering wheel of the vehicle using a wireless game controller.

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Elon Musk’s reception of the security lab’s work highlights Tesla’s tech-focused strategy and its efforts to make its vehicles as secure as possible. The company has been very open to the white hat hacking community, as shown by its willingness to give generous rewards for its ongoing Bug Bounty program, which covers the company’s electric cars and energy products, to name a few. Tesla even gave away a (now rare) Mid Range Model 3 RWD to security researchers who were able to hack into the electric sedan at the recently-held Pwn2Own 2019 event.  

This was not the first time that Keen Labs has found potential issues with the security of Tesla’s electric cars. Back in 2016, the group successfully hacked into a Model S to remotely control the vehicle’s brakes. Tesla promptly addressed the security weaknesses that the China-based researchers discovered.

Similar to its response then, Tesla has also addressed the security issues that allowed Keen Labs to hack into the Model S in its latest study. The company noted that the vulnerabilities which allowed Keen Labs to control the vehicle through a gamepad had already been addressed. A company spokesperson also stated that the vulnerabilities related to the Model S’ automatic wipers and Autopilot’s lane detection did not represent real-world scenarios.

“The rest of the findings are all based on scenarios in which the physical environment around the vehicle is artificially altered to make the automatic windshield wipers or Autopilot system behave differently, which is not a realistic concern given that a driver can easily override Autopilot at any time by using the steering wheel or brakes and should always be prepared to do so, and can manually operate the windshield wiper settings at all times,” Tesla noted.

The full results of Tencent Keen Security Lab’s study could be accessed here.

Elon Musk recognizes hackers who altered Tesla Autopilot behavior


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