Some people trying to get into their Tesla EVs a few days ago were in for a surprise. And not the good kind. They were locked out of their cars when the app was down, apparently for maintenance.
- Some Tesla owners said they couldn’t get into their cars after a Tesla app malfunction.
- Tesla has had issues before with its keys being hacked.
- If it can happen to Tesla, it can happen to any vehicle manufacturer who uses wireless-key entry.
Those affected took to social media to vent frustrations and seek solutions. On Twitter, “Tesla lover” acted as the town crier, calling out the glitch and in a tweet directed to Tesla’s account wrote: “app is down! Server broke? Hacked? People’s cell phone apps are claiming that they no longer have a car associated with the account, or cannot log in…”
Conflicting information on how to get into the locked cars flew back in forth on the feed. One person warned not to logout and log back in to the app because he got locked out. Another advised that after logging out, his car unlocked when he walked over. Without using the key fob.
A Tesla at rest. (Photo by Charlie Deets on Unsplash)
Technology is vulnerable to hackers
Tesla offers three options to get into your car: key card; an optional key fob; or the app, which works without an internet connection. It will probably come as no surprise that neither the key card nor the optional key fob was an option in the app mishap. Why? Because according to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone. And, no one leaves home without one — unless they forgot to bring it.
This isn’t a new issue for Tesla. Back in April of 2018, the same thing happened. Upon receiving social media reports, Tesla responded to its followers, “We’re aware the Tesla app is down for some customers and we’re working to restore functionality ASAP.” No peep from Tesla on Twitter or their blog about the issues encountered with this specific situation. However, there was an announcement on Reddit that the system was down for maintenance.
Unfortunately Tesla has been plagued by wireless key issues. Just a few days ago, a team of hackers demonstrated they could stealthily clone Tesla’s new wireless key in a matter of seconds. Adding insult to injury, the new key was Tesla’s solution to the previous one, which was compromised by the same hackers.
Annie Lowrey, a staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote about a similar issue she had with keyless entry when driving (attempting to drive) a car from Zipcar, a car sharing service. Zipcar’s whole system functions via an app and a connected keycard. After finding herself in a remote area without reception, Lowrey and her family were stranded, unable to get into the Zipcar. While they made it out alive, the Zipcar didn’t fare so well. It had to be towed.
A Zipcar access card. (Photo: Zipcar)
WHY THIS MATTERS
In just about every part of our lives, we have handed over control to the Internet of Things (IoT). You can check out how that will work over here. While it makes for convenient, efficient and lightning fast communications, it will always be vulnerable to hackers who want to bring down the system. It wasn’t too big a deal, since getting locked out is frustrating but not life endangering. But when a few systems control 100% of every other system, that’s a dangerous place to be. One hack or outage could cripple huge parts of cities or countries. The issues with Tesla and Zipcar bring to light the problem. Think about what would happen if autonomous vehicle systems got hacked. Now, what do we do to make sure our systems aren’t vulnerable?