Track

A smartphone app flaw has left Tesla vehicles vulnerable to being tracked, located, unlocked, and stolen.

Security experts at Norwegian app security firm Promon were able to take full control of a Tesla vehicle, including finding where the car is parked, opening the door and enabling its keyless driving functionality. A lack of security in the Tesla smartphone app opened the door to all manner of exploits, as explained in a blog post here. The cyber-attack unearthed by Promon provides additional functionality to that exposed by Keen Security Labs in a different hack in late September.

Tom Lysemose Hansen, founder and CTO at Promon, said: "Keen Security Labs' recent research exploited flaws in the CAN bus systems of Tesla vehicles, enabling them to take control of a limited number of functions of the car. Our test is the first one to use the Tesla app as an entry point, and goes a step further by showing that a compromised app can lead directly to the theft of a car."

One way for the hack to work is for cybercriminals to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot, likely close to a public Tesla charging point. When Tesla users log in and visit a page, an advert targeting car owners appears, offering an incentive such as a free meal or coffee. When clicking this link and downloading the accompanying app, hackers can gain access to the user's mobile device, allowing them to attack the Tesla app and obtain usernames and passwords.

Youtube Video

In an update, Promon outlines the many and varied security shortcomings of Tesla's app.

This attack is not Tesla specific, and can in generalised form be used against any app. However, the Tesla app did not offer any kind of resistance which would require time-consuming effort to exploit.

One thing that stood out was that the OAuth token is stored in plain text – absolutely no attempts have been made to encrypt it, or otherwise protect it. Getting access to this one piece of data alone will get you the location of the car, ability to track the car and being able to unlock the car.

Driving off with the car requires the username and password in addition, which was very easy to do since the application did not detect that it had been modified to add malware-like behaviour that would send the credentials out of the app to a server.

"If Tesla had followed best practice in security (e.g. as recommended by the Open Web Application Security Project), including applying self-protecting capabilities inside the app, it would have required much higher technical skills – and much more effort – to perform such an attack," according to Promon. The Norwegian app security firm said that it was in "close dialogue with Tesla" in order to address these app security issues.

El Reg asked Tesla to comment on the research on Thursday, a US national holiday. We're yet to hear back but we'll update this story as and when we hear more.

John Smith, principal solutions architect at app security firm Veracode, commented: "With Tesla just recently remediating a vulnerability which allowed the car to be exploited remotely, this new security flaw leaves the car vulnerable to theft and highlights the plethora of challenges that car manufacturers now face as they introduce internet-connected services into the car. Vulnerable software is one of the most significant challenges faced by the automotive industry, with findings from a recent IDC report indicating that there could be a lag of up to three years before car security systems are protected from hackers.

"There are over 200 million lines of code in today's connected car, not to mention smartphone apps linked to the car. So it is essential that car manufacturers put security at the heart of the development strategy, rather than as an afterthought." ®

Sponsored: Transforming software delivery with DevOps


The Register - Security

Like a train in the night, cybercriminals are fast and stealthy. They are more skilled than ever, and no one is immune to their innovative weapons and tactics. They work in the shadows but don’t shy away from publicly protecting their brands. Most likely, only once the damage is done will they get your full attention.

Building a Security Immune System

While very scary, this problem is also somewhat fascinating. Sitting back and admiring it, however, is not the solution. It’s time to figure out what we are going to do about it. In most cases, our traditional security practices are coming up short. An integrated security immune system can help fill in the gaps.

The Right Tools

It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to have a mess of fragmented tools across a handful of vendors. We often become enamored with the next big thing. In an industry where one breach can carry $ 4 million worth of damage, it’s critical to make sure you’re protected.

But each added tool carries complexity and cost. Instead of buying all the tools, it’s critical to buy the right tools — ones that provide analytics that monitor continuously and can be integrated across the ecosystem.

Risk Versus Innovation

Cloud, mobile, social and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming the workplace. But they are also making security a lot more challenging. Case in point, one-third of employees are saving work data to unapproved external cloud apps. They do this because it’s easy and convenient, but they often fail to consider the risk of exposing sensitive data.

One solution is to block the cloud completely, but that would mean missing out on its benefits. Chief information security officers (CISOs) need to balance the trade-off between risk and innovation.

It Can Happen to You

More than half of security attacks target small to medium-sized businesses. Security leaders who think their company isn’t big enough to be on a cybercriminal’s radar should think again. Hoping you aren’t a target is not enough to keep criminals out. For all you know, they’ve been inside your network for months.

We need to move from reactive to proactive strategies. That means assuming you’ve already been breached, constantly testing your security operations and continuously monitoring your network.

Human Error

Despite the tools and technology at our disposal, humans are often the weakest links in the security chain. In fact, 60 percent of attacks come from the inside.

At the end of the day, we’re only human and we make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be better. Using stronger passwords, employing privileged access, automating patching and response, and promoting wider education are a just a few ways we can help ourselves.

Find Threats Before They Find You

At IBM Security, we champion the immune system approach. With so many vendors, tools and capabilities, we believe it’s the clearest way to manage the complexity.

Analytics is the core component of the security immune system. It enables your team to consume massive amounts of security data locally — such as logs and flows, usage, sources, cloud risks, mobile alerts, threat intelligence — and externally — including research, blogs, white papers and tweets. With a cognitive engine, data becomes insight that can help your team quickly investigate and respond to incidents.

At the root of this process is the security operations center (SOC), which enterprises are expanding into true security fusion centers. With analytics, you can ditch your passive strategy and go on the offensive to find the threat before it finds you.

Integrate to Innovate

Integration is the other key piece. Siloed approaches to security often result in siloed visibility. To achieve full visibility into your threat environment, you need capabilities that can communicate and interoperate. Enterprises embracing the cloud need full visibility into cloud app usage, for example.

This requires integration across identity and access, intrusion prevention and security intelligence solutions. With this combination working together, you can gain full visibility into cloud events and usage, enable secure access and protect against cloud-related threats. Integration not only provides full visibility into your environment, but also enables you to embrace innovation.

Let’s rethink our traditional approach to security and upgrade the areas in which we’re still coming up short. An intelligent and integrated security system can help get you on the right track.

Learn more about building a healthy security environment


Security Intelligence