Teenager who hacked Elon Musk's Tesla says companies should be very afraid

David Colombo infiltrated 25 autonomous vehicles in 13 countries

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A teenager who hacked 25 Teslas across 13 countries has urged governments to strengthen their cyber security as the world grows more vulnerable to security threats.

David Colombo, 19, from Germany, famously infiltrated the autonomous vehicles in January and was able to control several features, including unlocking the doors and windows and turning on keyless driving.

He was speaking at the World Government Summit, being held at the Expo 2020 Dubai until Wednesday. The session was also attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

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We need governments creating policies that make sure it's secure - even though their process is much slower than the technology development
David Colombo

“We are definitely becoming increasingly vulnerable. Modern supply chains, critical infrastructure, hospitals and energy grids, for example, are things that are already controlled by technology,” he said.

“When we connect our lives to the internet, cyber security is going to be a key issue here to make sure the future is successful.”

Mr Colombo, who calls himself a Tesla fan, said he was playing around with a piece of software one day and was able to hack into the vehicles.

He gained access through a security flaw in TeslaMate, an open-source logging tool that Tesla owners use to monitor their vehicle’s energy consumption and location history.

Mr Colombo repurposed the tool’s application programming interface keys and was able to send commands to the vehicles remotely.

He made the news of the hacking public only after he had informed Tesla of the security flaw, giving it enough time to fix the problem.

He said it was important for governments to create policies that strengthen cyber security efforts, as it could have been dangerous if security flaws are identified by criminal hackers.

“Technology is changing so fast. We have all these huge tech companies and start-ups that want to build new things and change the world.

“I also would like to be able to say ‘Siri, turn off my lights’, but we have to make sure that those things are secured.

“So, we need governments creating policies that make sure it's secure, even though their process is much slower than the technology development.”

He said governments needs to work closer with the private sector to create strategies that prevent cyber attacks.

Latest figures show that 30,000 websites are hacked every day on average and a company falls victim to a cyber attack every 39 seconds.

Cyber attacks increased by 600 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber security services company PurpleSec said.

Cyber security experts are also warning of a cyber war caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Cyber attacks don't stop at borders – the internet is global, so cyber security also needs to be global, with governments that have partners all over the world,” said Mr Colombo.

Updated: March 29, 2022, 12:06 PM
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