Security researchers take control of a Tesla via drone

Cyber security researchers found a way to unlock the car doors with a Wi-Fi dongle

Tesla factory

Last week at an IT security conference, a pair of cyber security researchers demonstrated how they could unlock and open a Tesla’s doors using only a drone outfitted with a Wi-Fi dongle.

They were originally going to demonstrate this at last year’s Pwn2Own hacking competition, but that contest got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, they presented it at this year’s CanSecWest conference instead.

You can view the German cyber security experts’ presentation via a 40-minute-long YouTube video. If you want to skip to the action, you can head directly to the 36-minute mark to see them unlock the Tesla.

The hack shouldn’t be possible today, the researchers explained, because the security flaw they exploited got fixed with a software update last October after they informed Tesla about it. However, the researchers said other automakers might have the same vulnerability in their operating systems.

In their presentation, the researchers said they exploited vulnerabilities in ConnMan, an open source software component produced by Inte that functions as an internet connection manager for embedded devices. 

The researchers discovered they could exploit this flaw to take control of a Tesla’s infotainment system. From there, they could do anything a driver could do by pressing the buttons on the car’s console, including unlocking the doors and trunk, changing seat positions, playing music, and controlling the air conditioning.

Related Resource

The definitive guide to IT security

Protecting your MSP and your customers

The definitive guide to IT security for MSPs - whitepaper from LiongardDownload now

However, they couldn’t start or drive the car.

In the video, they use a drone equipped with a Wi-Fi dongle to remotely hack into a Tesla Model X’s infotainment system. They said this technique worked on Tesla S, 3, X, and Y models from up to 300 feet away.

The really concerning part is that other automakers besides Tesla use ConnMan software. An improved version of ConnMan came out in February, the researchers said, but it’s not clear how many automakers are using it.

Of course, this isn’t the first time hackers or cyber security researchers have targeted Tesla or its vehicles. In March, hackers breached more than 150,000 security cameras at Tesla and internet security provider Cloudflare. Last year, McAfee researchers used a two-inch strip of tape to trick Tesla autopilot systems into accelerating their vehicles 50 mph above the speed limit. Finally, in 2018, security researchers discovered Tesla keyfobs were vulnerable to spoofing attacks that would allow attackers to steal a Tesla simply by walking past the owner and cloning their key.

Featured Resources

The definitive guide to warehouse efficiency

Get your free guide to creating efficiencies in the warehouse

Free download

The total economic impact™ of Datto

Cost savings and business benefits of using Datto Integrated Solutions

Download now

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Support the critical role CX plays in your business

Free download

Ransomware report

The global state of the channel

Download now

Recommended

What is a web filter?
cyber security

What is a web filter?

24 Sep 2021
100 million IoT devices affected by zero-day flaw
Internet of Things (IoT)

100 million IoT devices affected by zero-day flaw

24 Sep 2021
Malware developers create malformed code signatures to avoid detection
malware

Malware developers create malformed code signatures to avoid detection

24 Sep 2021
New FamousSparrow hacking group caught targeting hotels
vulnerability

New FamousSparrow hacking group caught targeting hotels

24 Sep 2021

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

17 Sep 2021
What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Best MDM solutions 2020
mobile device management (MDM)

Best MDM solutions 2020

17 Sep 2021