Fleet-Wide Autopilot Hack Is Tesla’s Biggest Security Concern

4 days ago by Steven Loveday 14

Tesla Autopilot

If criminals were able to hack into the Autopilot system in Tesla’s entire fleet of vehicles, it would be potential for extreme disaster.

What would happen if a cybercriminal ordered every Tesla vehicle on the planet to head to Rhode Island?

Well, Tesla CEO Elon Musk jokingly said that the people of Rhode Island would be angry. But think about it … cars overseas would attempt the cross the ocean, and traffic on the east coast would be ridiculous. Is Rhode Island even big enough to accommodate that many extra vehicles simultaneously?

Time to digress. Cars with Autopilot don’t drive into oceans or continue on impossible routes, the cars would arrive staggered due to distance from the destination, and hopefully the hack would be stopped well before there were any really major issues. But it really does make you think.

Tesla

Elon Musk at the National Governors Association 2017 Summer Meeting.

Musk was the keynote speaker at the recent National Governors Association 2017 Summer Meeting. As we reported, he provided a wealth of information and it’s all available on video. However, Musk stated that Tesla’s biggest concern is a fleet-wide Autopilot hack. He said:

“I think one of the biggest concern for autonomous vehicles is somebody achieving a fleet-wide hack.”

“In principle, if someone was able to hack all the autonomous Teslas, they could say … I mean just as a prank … they could send them all to Rhode Island … across the United States … and that would be the end of Tesla and there would be a lot of angry people in Rhode Island.”

In general, Musk believes that vehicle security is of the utmost importance, and especially with regards to self-driving cars. He’s not the only one with such concerns. As people discuss autonomous vehicles, one of the first subjects that comes up — beyond whether or not they trust a car driving for them — is usually related to “what happens if the system fails, or there’s a virus, or someone can gain control.”

Musk made it clear that Tesla is doing everything that it can to assure that something like this can’t happen. He continued:

“We gotta make super sure that a fleet-wide is basically impossible and that if people are in the car, that they have override authority on whatever the car is doing. If the car is doing something wacky, you can press a button that no amount of software can override and ensure that you gain control of the vehicle and cut the link to the servers.”

He also assured that there are many system and sub-systems already in place within each Tesla vehicle. High-level encryption makes it so that an outside hacker can’t control powertrain or braking.

We are told not to worry about our money in banks, or our credit card accounts, because the encryption is such that it’s “impossible” to get access, but it happens. Apple’s level of encryption made it seemingly impossible for the FBI to unlock an iPhone, but they did it. Cyber threats are very real, but if any company is aware of it and taking the proper precautions, Tesla is a likely candidate.

Source: Electrek

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14 responses to "Fleet-Wide Autopilot Hack Is Tesla’s Biggest Security Concern"

  1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Perhaps fully autonomous cars should have a fallback “safe mode”, as Microsoft Windows does, activated by a hardware button/switch so it can’t be locked out by a software hack; a “safe mode” that locks the car into “human driver” mode.

    However, that would only be an interim solution. Eventually autonomous cars will be expected to operate without any human “on board” who was trained to drive.

  2. Terawatt says:

    > What would happen if a cybercriminal ordered every Tesla vehicle on the planet to head to Rhode Island?

    My Model 3 would fail to calculate the route, from Kristiansand, Norway, and probably display an error message on that huge screen.

    It’s both entertaining and annoying to see how often you guys totally forget that there’s a world beyond Trump-land.

    1. Trump Unplugged says:

      Firstly, as everyone knows, the US of A is the best country ever. (I know these things because I have a big brain, and very large hands.) Now, you Norwinnians, or whatever you people in that Nor-region call yourselves are very suspicious to begin with, even if you’re near my friends, the Russians.

      Everyone tells me that Norway is so cold that EVs don’t run there anyway. Just the other day, a Norway person called me up and said that his EV had frozen. So don’t try to fool me. I’m smart and went to a real college. USA, USA, USA. Oh, and Russia, too.

      1. Jason says:

        Ha, Ha, Ha!

  3. Terawatt says:

    Since a lot of Teslas have been stolen in Europe without needing a key I think there’s some reason to be concerned. If thieves can have the cars drive themselves to them, while concealing their location, I guess things could get interesting.

    Or, perhaps no more far fetched, one or more of the incumbents would decide it’s not so easy getting the better of this pesky upstart as they had hoped, and hire some blackhats to cause mayhem by killing as many of Teslas buyers as possible. These are after all corporations that kill some 30,000 people a year in Europe by cheating on emissions testing… although in this case not so discriminately: their own customers are killed as often as everyone else because of it!

  4. Alonso Perez says:

    I’ll note that the FBI did crack that iPhone, but with physical access to the device. That kind of situation is different from a fleet wide hack. You should assume that if someone has physical access to your car, and enough time, they will be able to hack it.

  5. Ocean Railroader says:

    I once had this type of event of all the self driving cars getting hacked. More likely in the scene the mainframe that controls the cars sense of direction crashes due to something happening to Earth’s GPS systems crashing.

    In the action scene the self driving cars and some trucks go crashing all over the place and though the median barrier and all over the road as the characters are driving a old none self driving cars with people ether screaming or sleeping at the wheel.

  6. Someone out there says:

    That’s a very interesting way of stealing cars! Instead of risking exposing yourself trying to hotwire the car you can just order it over the internet to some more secure pick up location.
    It’s interesting how the solution to one problem leads to new problems.

    1. Someone out there says:

      Somewhat on the topic, in the WikiLeaks information dump from the CIA “Vault 7” there were talks about hacking cars and disabling brakes and stuff. Scary stuff, I didn’t check it out further but that would potentially allow the CIA or anyone else with this tech to commit more or less untraceable assassinations. This is actually a very serious matter.

      1. Mystery says:

        I am glad “average” people, including the biggest Pusher of TSLA stock, are beginning to wake up. As an automation engr, this has been obvious for over a decade or Two (Prius stuck pedal crash killing SDiego cop – conveniently forgotten). That is why it is So Dangerous and Irresponsible for TSLA to Flatly Refuse to change the name of its Mktg Trick “Autopilot”. it already killed the China driver 18 months ago. Only Now is this a Worry (after 455k Model 3 reservations?), well… how convenient (Church lady dance). also news today abt US military not using DJI drones with FW made not in the USA. Homer Simpson …Doh? Since when could homosapiens Fly? I think the answer has always been Never. Until that Singapore team makes roto wings for everyone

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          It’s a measure of how safe Tesla Autopilot already is that an anti-Tesla troll like you feels compelled to keep repeating the unverified claim about a driver in China whose family claims he was killed in a Tesla car under Autopilot — but refuses to allow Tesla to examine the car.

          But we’d also need to know just how many lives Tesla Autopilot has already saved. Mathematically, it seems almost certain that the number of lives it has saved is already more than the number it has taken.

          “The thing to keep in mind is that self-driving cars don’t have to be perfect to change the world. They just have to be better than human beings.” — Deepak Ahuja, CFO of Tesla Inc.

  7. Roy_H says:

    “If the car is doing something wacky, you can press a button that no amount of software can override and ensure that you gain control of the vehicle and cut the link to the servers.”

    And if your car is stolen, the thieves can press the button to gain control of the car, take it off the network so it can’t be tracked. Already Tesla key-fobs are being mimicked by laptops by thieves to steal cars. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned key!

    1. Jack says:

      Because the “good old fashioned key” is even more likely to be tricked. It takes just seconds for someone with the right Tools & Knowledge to get in and away… Believe it or not the electronic locks are much harder to break if they are done right. Actually most keyless entry Systems today are not (yet) and there’s not much reason for Automakers to change it as every stolen car will be replaced by a new one. Big Business for Insurance Companies & Automakers. Again, I think Tesla may also be a game changer here…

    2. Some Guy says:

      Then good thing that Model 3 does not have a key fob anymore. Just phone via bluetooth or Chipcard (the latter one could be a passive device, that gets activated when in close proximity (few cm) of the car.
      Could be hard for criminals to interfere a signal that requires to be right next to the car (would be easier to just pull a knife and hijack the car by physical force, but the prison sentece for that is way higher than without the owner noticing, so most car thieves will not risk it)

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