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Hack A Tesla Model 3 & Win A Prize — The Tesla Model 3 + $500,000

Totally defeat the digital defenses built into a Tesla Model 3 and you can win the car plus $500,000 in this year’s PWN2OWN contest from the Zero Day Initiative.

Every connected car faces security issues. Imagine for a moment you are gliding peacefully along in your Cloud Nine electric car when it suddenly veers into a bridge abutment. Not good, right? Almost as bad, a hacker could take over your Spotify account and force you to listen to an endless succession of Michael Bolton songs. Eeek! In theory, such things are possible if a hacker is able to access your car’s computer and tell it to do things it is not supposed to do. Clearly, the “car as computer” model pioneered by Tesla has some potential security issues.

The Zero Day Initiative hopes to head off some of the worst abuses black hat hackers might be capable of by asking people with sophisticated computer skills to expose weaknesses in digital products. The objective is to find and fix those weaknesses before they can be exploited by people bent on digital skullduggery.

ZDI’s latest PWN2OWN contest challenges people to break into the operating systems of a Tesla Model 3. According to CNET Road Show, the Tier One challenge is to completely compromise the digital security of a Model 3. Anyone who can do so successfully will win the car plus $500,000. Winning lesser challenges such as  “infotainment root persistence,” “autopilot root persistence,” and “arbitrary control of the CAN Bus” can reward hackers with up to $200,000.

Tier 2 challenges involve compromising the infotainment, wi-fi, or Bluetooth systems and can pay up to $500,000 if one person conquers them all. Tier 3 hacks are the simplest — a USB attack on the Model 3 infotainment system, for example — and carry lesser prizes, usually around $35,000. The competition will take place at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver March 18–20. See the ZDI website for more details. Tesla is a sponsor of this year’s contest, but the cash prizes are provided by ZDI.

It is obviously in Tesla’s best interest to find any flaws in its digital systems before Micheal Bolton music starts pouring from the speakers and driving Tesla drivers mad. Good luck to all you hackers out there who think you can outwit the experts at Tesla. It’s not impossible to win, but you are going to have to bring your A game.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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