Think you can hack a Model 3? Tesla might just give you one free

Cars have been morphing into computers for a couple of decades now, but Tesla has taken the transformation to a new level. However, as every computer user knows, digitization means a panoply of ever-evolving security threats. Tesla has long worked with the “white hat” hacker community to pro-actively identify and fix security flaws in its vehicle software. And the company pays for this help. According to Electrek, Tesla has paid “bug bounties” of as much as $15,000 to hackers who exposed vulnerabilities. 

Above: Tesla's Model 3 (Image: Charged)

Now the California carmaker has upped the ante in a big way, offering a free Model 3 as a prize for cracking the vehicle’s software system. Tesla will be the first automaker to participate in the annual Pwn2Own computer hacking contest, which is run by Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. At the event in Vancouver this March, Tesla will give away a Model 3 to the winner of the hacking contest.

Above: A breakdown of the opportunity to hack a Tesla Model 3 at Pwn2Own (Youtube: TWiT Netcast Network)

That’s not all: There will be $900,000 worth of prizes available for hackers who expose flaws in Tesla software. The biggest prize will be $250,000 for hacks that execute code on the car’s gateway, Autopilot, or Vehicle Controller Secondary (VCSEC) systems. (The gateway interconnects the car’s powertrain, chassis, and other components and processes the data they send. The VCSEC is responsible for security functions, including the alarm.)

Top: Targets (and awards) that can be launched against a Tesla Model 3 at Pwn2Own; Bottom: Two add-on prizes (Source: Zero Day Initiative)

“We develop our cars with the highest standards of safety in every respect, and our work with the security research community is invaluable to us,” said Tesla Vice President of Vehicle Software David Lau. “Since launching our bug bounty program in 2014 - the first to include a connected consumer vehicle - we have continuously increased our investments into partnerships with security researchers to ensure that all Tesla owners constantly benefit from the brightest minds in the community.”


Written by: Charles Morris; This article originally appeared in Charged; Sources: Electrek, Ars TechnicaZero Day Initiative