For as long as there has been a computer, there’s been a dozen brains waiting to ‘hack’ it.
Fast-forward to the present day, where regular passenger cars are packing increasingly complex computer systems, and the danger of outside interference is fast becoming a major concern for manufacturers and buyers alike.
Tesla, founded by tech-obsessed billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has revealed plans to better secure the advanced systems in its all-electric cars.
The company added former Apple executive Kristen Page - “the hacker princess” - to its ranks in February, but that’s just the beginning.
To stay ahead of the game, Tesla rolled into the Def Con event in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of hackers, security experts, journalists, lawyers and recruiters.
Federal governments and giant corporations are generally the key recruiters on the floor at Def Con, but this year they were joined by Tesla, one of the few household corporate names with an official presence at the event.
Tesla’s appearance at Def Con also follows news that hackers at an event in Singapore had discovered a key flaw in the Tesla Model S sedan’s computer system: a lack of any cap on the amount of times a user can attempt to log into the car’s internet-connected security controls.
As a result, the vehicle was vulnerable to “brute-force” attacks, which uses software that can attempt thousands of randomised passwords per second until it lands upon the correct code.
(This flaw has, of course, been fixed in the time since.)
The company says it is tackling the danger of interference with its cars’ computer systems in two ways: hiring experts to discover and fix faults from within the company, and providing incentives for third-party players to discover and report - rather than exploit - them to Tesla directly.
Speaking at Def Con, Paget said that one such incentive specific to the event was for hackers who discover a fault to be given a platinum-coloured ‘challenge coin’, entitling them to a free tour of Tesla’s facilities.
Tesla is using events like Def Con to hire hackers (‘security researchers’, to be precise), and it aimed to recruit 20 to 30 heads at the Las Vegas event alone.
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