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Teen Tesla Hacker Accessed Owners’ Email Addresses to Warn Them

A Tesla Inc. Supercharger station in a parking lot in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, July 3, 2021. After receiving red-carpet treatment from government officials, who granted Tesla the unprecedented concession of allowing it to wholly control its local subsidiary, the carmaker is now being forced to rethink its strategy, from customer service to public relations, in a market that's key to Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk's long-term ambitions. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
25 Jan 2022 0

The 19-year-old cybersecurity researcher who remotely accessed dozens of Tesla Inc. vehicles through a third-party flaw, has a new trick: hacking the car owners’ email addresses to notify them they’re at risk.

The 19-year-old cybersecurity researcher who remotely accessed dozens of Tesla Inc. vehicles through a third-party flaw, has a new trick: hacking the car owners’ email addresses to notify them they’re at risk.Earlier this month, David Colombo discovered a flaw in a piece of third-party open source software that let him remotely hijack some functions on about two dozen Teslas, including opening and closing the doors or honking the horn. In trying to notify the affected car owners, he then found a flaw in Tesla’s software for the digital car key that allowed him to learn their email addresses.

Colombo said the defect was in a Tesla application programming interface, or API. After he publicized his first discovery, a Twitter user suggested contact details for the affected owners could be found in the code that allows two pieces of software to communicate with each other, also known as an API endpoint.

Read more: Teen cyber prodigy stumbled onto flaw letting him hijack Teslas

“Once I was able to figure out the endpoint, I was indeed able to carry the email address associated with the Tesla API key, the digital car key,” Colombo said in an interview Monday with Bloomberg Television. “You shouldn’t be able to carry sensitive information like an email address using an access that is already expired or revoked.”

The teenager, from Dinkelsbühl, Germany, said he has shared the additional vulnerability with Tesla, and the car company’s engineers have written a fix to prevent it from happening in the future.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment. Colombo said his additional discovery should be eligible for a “bug bounty” from Tesla — consistent with the company’s policy — but officials there haven’t confirmed an amount with him. He joked that he hopes the sum is big enough to cover the coffee bill he’s amassed working on the original flaw the last two weeks.

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