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