After discovering similar vulnerabilities in the Model S last year, the Chinese security research firm Tencent Keen Security Lab have turned their attention to the Tesla Model X, and have been able to exploit these security holes to remotely do things to the Model X like open its doors, blink the lights, control in-car displays, and, most worryingly, actuate the brakes while the car is in motion.
What’s especially notable is that after their demonstration of the Model S hacks in 2016, Tesla introduced a system of firmware code signing in an attempt to prevent future similar hacks; as Tencent Keen Labs just proved, those efforts just weren’t good enough.
Sure, it was harder, but the research team broke through, and produced this video showing what they accomplished:
Some of what they managed was similar to what had been accomplished last year, just on the Model X and defeating the code signing security. Other things, like the bonkers light show set to music, are new, and show the degree of control they’ve managed to get over the car.
It’s notable that the lights that blink on and off are controlled independently; this isn’t just sending signals to blink an indicator or turn on the low-beams; each individual lighting sub-unit is controlled independently.
The team managed to get control over both the Model X’s CAN bus (the overall internal network connecting the car’s electronic systems) and the ECU, for lower-level control.
What we’re seeing here will likely be the new normal in the future; a never-ending arms race between hackers and companies, with security protocols made and broken, over and over, until we evolve into beings of pure orgone energy or the heat death of the universe, whichever comes first.
UPDATE: A Tesla spokesperson reached out to provide this statement regarding the hack and related research:
By working closely with this research group following their initial findings last year, we responded immediately upon receiving this report by deploying an over-the-air software update (v8.1, 17.26.0+) that addresses the potential issues. While the risk to our customers from this type of exploit is very low and we have not seen a single customer ever affected by it, we actively encourage research of this kind so that we can prevent potential issues from occurring. This demonstration wasn’t easy to do, and the researchers overcame significant challenges due to the recent improvements we implemented in our systems. In order for anyone to have ever been affected by this, they would have had to use their car’s web browser and be served malicious content through a set of very unlikely circumstances. We commend the research team behind this demonstration and look forward to continued collaboration with them and others to facilitate this kind of research.