Feeds

Tesla cars 'hackable' says Dell engineer

REST authentication mess could allow attacker to open the sunroof

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Slack authentication in Tesla's Model S REST API exposes the electric car to a variety of non-safety but non-trivial attacks, according to a Dell engineer and Tesla owner.

In this post over at O'Reilly, Dell senior distinguished engineer and executive director of cloud computing George Reese says the “flawed” authentication protocol in the Tesla REST API “makes no sense”. Rather than using OAuth, Tesla has decided to craft its own authentication, which Reese unpicked.

There's one small reassurance for owners of the 'leccy car: none of the vulnerabilities he discusses cause any kind of safety issue – although he creepily notes that an attacker would be able to see everywhere the car goes.

Tesla, it turns out, has broken one of the golden rules of security – the one that says “don't re-use user IDs and passwords for different functions”. In this case, the e-mail and password used to build the car at the Tesla Website are retained later for customers logging into the car via the Website.

There's also a persistence issue: when a user logs into the Tesla Website to get to their car, it creates a three-month token for which there's no revocation mechanism. If the system is compromised, the attacker would have access to the login for three months, and if “an attacker gains access to a website’s database of authenticated tokens,” then all the cars would be visible to the attacker.

While the flaw doesn't offer access to any “operational” aspects of the car – like steering or brakes – the risks are still significant. An attacker could fool around with configuration settings, the climate control, the sunroof, open the charge port, and anything else supported by the API. Apart from tracking owners' movements, “there is enough here to do some economic damage both in terms of excess electrical usage and forcing excess wear on the batteries”, Reese notes.

Reese links to an unofficial documentation of the API, which outlines its capabilities, here. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.