Leuven researchers hack key to Tesla Model X: it only takes...

The Model X, with a price tag of around $ 100,000, works with a remote key that automatically unlocks when the key is near the car. This works via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth signals that are received by the car.


The signals are picked up by the device that controls the Tesla’s safety mechanism, the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The research team managed to manipulate the software that connects to the ECU so that they could make the device believe they had the correct key. After that, it only took a few minutes to steal the car.

Two weaknesses

“By taking advantage of two weaknesses, we can steal the car in a few minutes. At five meters away, we send a message that activates our target’s key. Then we can send our software to that key to take control of it. This process takes one and a half minutes and can easily be carried out over a distance of more than 30 meters, ”explains researcher Benedikt Gierlich.

“After hacking the key, we can get unlock messages to open the car. Then we establish a link with the vehicle’s diagnostic interface. Then we can connect a custom key to the car. With this adapted key we can start the car and drive away. ”

Not the first time

It is not the first time that the Leuven researchers hacked a Tesla. This way they could copy the key from the Model S earlier. Tesla paid a fee to the ethical hackers and has since launched an update to its key software.

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