Tesla made the trek to Las Vegas for Def Con, the preeminent security conference in the U.S., and while it didn't provide a car for the festivities, it did send its "hacker princess" to look for recruits.
Kristin Paget, who's leading Tesla's vehicle security team after stints at Apple and Microsoft, attended Def Con for a simple reason: "It's a supercar that's connected to the Internet," Paget told the Wall Street Journal. "Use your imagination."
With the Model S leaving the factory with both an embedded data connection (a 3G modem) and built-in WiFi, it's more of a rolling computer than most cars on the road. That exposes it to vulnerabilities that Tesla is trying to nip in the bud, and so far, at least one security flaw has already been fixed.
Paget joined Tesla earlier this year to help beef up the security side of its cars, and part of that is expanding the amount of security experts at the automaker. At Def Con, Tesla is out to pick up between 20 to 30 hackers that can ply their wares on the Model S, the forthcoming Model X, and the Model 3.
But for researchers that prefer to go freelance, Tesla has been courting them as well. Beginning last year, Tesla has actively encouraged anyone that finds a vulnerability to contact the automaker, and as a thank you, they get a platinum-colored "challenge coin" they can use for a factory tour. So far, 20 confirmed vulnerabilities have been exposed and Tesla adds the hackers name to a Hall of Fame list that's now 20-strong.
Hiring security experts at an automaker hasn't been out of the ordinary for quite a while, but with the car becoming another node in the Internet of Things, it's getting more important by the day, and when asked if the auto industry is prepared for the risks, Paget simply said, "Hell no!"