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Tesla Model S Software Hack Performed By Researchers; Update Released To Patch Security Breach

Aug 08, 2015 12:12 PM EDT | By Jason Fonbuena
Tesla Model S, Tesla Motors, Defcon Hackers Conference

Researchers have successfully performed a Tesla Model S software hack that doesn't necessarily mean the electric vehicle from Palo Alto, Calif. is a bad one.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lookout Mobile Security co-founder Kevin Mahaffey and CloudFlare researcher Marc Rogers "were able to unlock the car's doors, open the trunk, darken screens displaying speed and other information and kill the engine by issuing commands from an iPhone."

Speaking at the Defcon hackers conference at the Paris hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Rogers said they hacked into the Model S because "it's a data center on wheels" and they "wanted to see how well it did."

Despite successfully performing the Tesla Model S software hack, the two researchers were still impressed at the EV's design.

"This is a phenomenal design, more like the way airplanes are designed than cars. It took a lot of thinking outside the box to hack the car's systems," Roberts said.

They also said that Tesla anticipated security breaches in the $100,000 electric sedan. Reportedly, the car will shift to neutral when hacked at speeds over 5 mph which allows it to coast to a stop.

But Mahaffey and Rogers didn't hack the Model S so easily.

"For their research, [they] plugged a laptop into a Model S Ethernet port and exploited the vulnerabilities until they tapped into the entertainment software," according to PC World.

Wired reported that the EV maker has already released an over-the-air (OTA) update to fix the Model S sedans' vulnerability to its users.

"Tesla has taken a number of different measures to address the effects of all six vulnerabilities reported by [the researchers]," a spokeswoman for the company told the website in an email.

The Model S hack is still a far cry from the Jeep Cherokee hack demonstrated two weeks ago, according to the website.

Whereas the Jeep "had no separation between its infotainment system and the critical drive system," Tesla "has a gateway between the infotainment and drive systems" meant to prevent hackers from "reaching critical functions."

Even after breaking into the Model S software, Mahaffey reiterated his confidence on the EV and commended Tesla's efforts at safeguarding its vehicles against hackers.

"I feel safer in a Tesla Model S than any other connected car on the planet," he told THR after giving the Tesla Model S software hack presentation.

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