Hack a Tesla, get a Model 3 and nearly $1 million

The Zero Day Initiative "Pwn2Own" contest is back, and Tesla wants you to compromise its cars for cash.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
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Think you have what it takes to hack a Tesla?

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Alright, hacker guy or gal, this is your time to shine. If you're not familiar with the Zero Day Intiative (ZDI), it's calling all friendly hackers extraordinaire once again for a good cause. This time, if if anyone manages to hack a , they'll get nearly $1 million and a shiny-new Model 3.

ZDI confirmed on Thursday that Tesla will once again be the big-name sponsor for its automotive category. Increasingly, automakers turn to friendly hackers to exploit their systems to keep our machines safe. Thus, ZDI has issued a new challenge for this year's "Pwn2Own" contest.

If an individual is able to completely compromise a Tesla Model 3, they get the car as part of Tier 1 prizes. Not only will they go home with a new Model 3, but they'll immediately earn a cash prize of $500,000 from ZDI. Yet, the most skilled have a chance for even more cash. If a contestant ticks off a few hacks in extra categories, they'll earn up to $200,000 more on top of the car and $500,000. These areas are "infotainment root persistence," "autopilot root persistence" and "arbitrary control of the CAN Bus." Each area has its own prize amount, but all hack all three, and it totals up to $200,000.

Tesla's Model 3 Performance subtly adds the power

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Obviously, Tesla is confident in its cybersecurity measures, but it also wants to stay on top of things. Tesla said last year at the event it values this kind of hands-on approach while it develops various layers of protections for its drivers -- notably improving its over-the-air update strategy for security. It won't be easy to crack the car, hence the massive payouts.

Tier 2 hacks are -- I'll play it fast and loose with the word "simpler" -- but still difficult. Compromising the infotainment, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or model will earn hackers, at most, $500,000 with extra tasks earning more cash. Tier 3 marks the simplest hacks, which should only take compromising a single subsystem. Correspondingly, the prize amounts are, obviously, far less, but still hefty. A USB-based attack on the Model 3's infotainment system earns $35,000, for example. Some compromises also still include a Model 3 as a prize.

Those ready to try their best to attack a Tesla with friendly-malicious intent will need to book it to Vancouver. The whole shebang will take place within the CanSecWest conference scheduled for March 18-20.

Originally published Jan. 10, 9:27 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:45 p.m.: Clarifies ZDI issues the hacking challenge, not Tesla.

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