Network Security, Patch/Configuration Management, Vulnerability Management

Researchers hack Tesla firmware again, this time in Model X


Security researchers from Keen Security Lab spotted another set of critical vulnerabilities in a Tesla, this time on the Model X, which allowed them to remotely manipulate the vehicle.

Last year, the researchers were the first to crack the Tesla CAN Bus to achieve remote control over the Model S and this year researchers have developed a similar attack which can be carried on Tesla's latest firmware, according to a July 27 blog post.

Researchers were able to enable all of the car's microcontrollers to communicate with each other as well as the ECU which is responsible for controlling all of the vehicle's subsystems. While parked, researchers were able to manipulate the Tesla's lights, windows, seats, sunroof panel, and in-vehicle displays. And while the vehicle was moving they were able to make the car brake, open the trunk and activate its windshield wipers.

The most recent attack also involved exploitation of the CAN Bus as well as the ECU and was enabled by multiple zero-day vulnerabilities in different modules. Researchers disclosed the flaws to Tesla and they were patched in an over the air update issued in July.

Tesla owners are encouraged to ensure they have firmware version 8.1 (17.26.0) or later and if not they should force the update manually.

An ICS-Cert alert was issued for the flaws on July 28 as well. The vulnerability was described as a “Resource Exhaustion” type vulnerability that which could be remotely exploited but would require physical access to the vehicle to initially enable the exploit.

“The severity of the attack varies depending on how the CAN is implemented on a system and how easily an input port (typically ODB-II) can be accessed by a potential attacker,” the alert said. “This attack differs from previously reported frame-based attacks, which are typically detected by IDS/IPS systems.”

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