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$10,000 prize offered to hack a Tesla car

TeslaModelS.jpg

 (Tesla Motors)

A Beijing security conference is offering $10,000 to anyone who can hack into a high-tech Tesla electric car.

The Symposium on Security for Asia Network (SyScan) has launched a hacking competition for security gurus attending its event. The competition’s goal is to examine the safety of a Tesla car, according to a note on the conference website, which says that the rules will be announced soon.

The event takes place next Wednesday and Thursday in the Chinese capital.

Up until now, hackers have not really targeted Tesla cars, according to John Pescatore, director for emerging security trends at The SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Md.-based security training and certification firm.

“They have a good security reputation mainly because nobody has pounded on them yet,” he told FoxNews.com.

Pescatore warns, however, that the increasing amount of technology found in automobiles brings big security challenges.

“These new cars, especially hybrids, have a lot more software in them that has to be updated – these paths haven’t really been probed yet by hackers,” he told FoxNews.com. “I assume for any electric car there’s a huge amount of software to optimize and control things.”

Security researcher Nitesh Dhanjani has written a paper on Tesla Model S security and believes that the car is vulnerable to hackers. "Tesla Model S cars maintain an outbound connection with the Tesla infrastructure in the cloud - this enables Tesla personnel to track cars and check for anomalies remotely," he wrote, in an e-mail to FoxNews.com. "The most impactful security issue would allow an attacker to remotely leverage and abuse these facilities."

It remains to be seen whether an attacker could remotely influence the driving of the car, according to Dhanjani.  "It isn’t clear if Tesla has segmented it’s ethernet and 3G based networks from the mechanics of the car and I trust this is ripe for further research," he wrote. 

Neither Tesla nor SyScan has yet responded to a request for comment on this story.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based car maker clearly takes security seriously. Earlier this year the company hired former Apple security guru Kristin Paget, whose title at the iPhone maker was ‘Hacker Princess.’

Tesla also has a security researcher ‘hall of fame’ on its website, which acclaims the first researchers to report a confirmed vulnerability.  Researchers are also considered for an award if they are the first to report one of the top three confirmed vulnerabilities in a calendar quarter, according to the website.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers