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Tesla plans to open-source its vehicle security software for free to other automakers for safer self-driving future

With the upcoming rise of self-driving and more connected vehicles come an increased risk of hacking those vehicles with ill-intent.

Elon Musk thinks that Tesla’s vehicle security software is the best solution and he plans to open-source it for free to other automakers for a safer self-driving future.

Musk has expressed concerns about hackers gaining access to Tesla system in the past.

He said that preventing a ‘fleet-wide hack’ is Tesla’s top security priority.

At the National Governors Association last year, Musk gave some more interesting insights into Tesla’s security effort and especially related to once their vehicles become fully autonomous:

“I think one of the biggest concern for autonomous vehicles is somebody achieving a fleet-wide hack.”

He followed with an interesting example of what someone could do with that kind of access:

“In principles, if someone was able to say hack all the autonomous Teslas, they could say – I mean just as a prank – they could say ‘send them all to Rhode Island’ [laugh] – across the United States… and that would be the end of Tesla and there would be a lot of angry people in Rhode Island.”

The CEO said that Tesla developed “specialized encryption” for “multiple sub-systems” in the vehicle and they are developing something for drivers to always have “override authority” if your autonomous vehicle starts doing something “wacky.”

Following the Defcon hacking conference, Musk now says that Tesla plans to open-source its security software for free to other automakers:

Tesla has a good relationship with whitehat hackers and security researchers who have periodically reported some vulnerabilities, which Tesla has been able to quickly fixed through over-the-air software updates.

Back in 2016, we reported on a Chinese whitehat hacker group, the Keen Security Lab at Tencent, managing to remotely hack the Tesla Model S through a malicious wifi hotspot. It is believed to be the first remote hack of a Tesla vehicle.

The hackers reported the vulnerability to Tesla before going public and the automaker pushed an update fairly quickly.

Once gaining access, the hackers were able to upload their own software to take control of the vehicle, but Tesla pushed a fix with code signing to add a cryptographic key to change onboard software. Tesla CTO JB Straubel said at the time:

“Cryptographic validation of firmware updates is something we’ve wanted to do for a while to make things even more robust. This is what the world needs to move towards. Otherwise the door is thrown wide open anytime anyone finds a new vulnerability.”

That’s becoming increasingly true as vehicles become more connected and more systems rely on computers.

Electrek’s Take

Tesla has been known to open-source its technology to accelerate the advent of electric transport by opening all its patents back in 2013.

It’s not clear how much of an impact it had since we don’t know if any automaker ended up using Tesla’s patent other than a Tesla-inspired Chinese EV startup which admitted they planned on using the automaker’s open-source patents.

Either way, it certainly can’t hurt and making self-driving vehicle secure is definitely important.

Open-sourcing the software could also encourage security researchers to help make it even more secure by trying to find new vulnerabilities.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below?

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