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Tesla's software bug bounty is going to the big leagues with Pwn2Own

Tesla will be the first auto company to be a willing subject in the annual hacking competition. Winner gets a Model 3.

Tesla Alaska Testing Facility
Tesla's calling on the power of hackers to help secure its cars.
Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Most car manufacturers would dread the idea of someone hacking one of their vehicles, but Tesla has decided to go the other way and open up its software to a hacking contest called Pwn2Own in Vancouver. The winner will take home a Model 3.

The Pwn2Own contest has been going since 2007 -- it started as a way for "white-hat" hackers to show Apple that its systems weren't as impervious as it was making them out to be. In the first contest, the prize was a MacBook Pro.

Now, 12 years later, Pwn2Own has become the premier event for white hats to test their skills against various types of software and win some cool stuff. The 2019 event is being sponsored by Tesla, Microsoft, VMWare and is a part of the larger CanSecWest security conference.

"Since 2007, Pwn2Own has become an industry-leading contest that encourages new areas of vulnerability research on today's most critical platforms," said Brian Gorenc, senior director of vulnerability research for Trend Micro, a software security platform. "Over the years we have added new targets and categories to direct research efforts toward areas of growing concern for businesses and consumers."

Currently, Tesla is the only auto manufacturer openly participating in such an event. Its involvement stems from its long-standing bug bounty program, which pays up to $15,000 for security exploits of its systems.

Tesla's involvement in Pwn2Own is just the latest escalation of its bug-seeking behavior. In 2018 the company altered its warranty policy to state that as long as security exploits are found and reported within the limits outlined by the bug bounty program, the user's warranty will remain intact.

The 2019 Pwn2Own event will be held in Vancouver from March 20-22.