Calling all hackers: Tesla needs you to increase electronic security

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To keep its assets safe, one company is looking outside the law for help.

No, this isn’t the tagline for an upcoming Jason Statham film, however Steven Seagal is probably on standby.

American automaker Tesla is in the process of hiring somewhere between 20 and 30 hackers to improve wireless security, according to a report by Motor Authority.

To accomplish this, the company recently sent its resident security expert and ‘hacker princess’, Kristin Paget, to a programming conference called Def Con in Las Vegas, Nevada. Paget’s mission was to recruit binary code-adroit techies.

Using a ‘know your enemy’ approach, Tesla is looking to prevent hackers from wirelessly commandeering systems on its electric vehicles, something that has been a point of concern recently.

Why is Tesla worried about this? The answer is twofold.

The first was an incident where a Model S owner patched into his vehicle’s computer system and accessed a non-standard web browser via the central screen. The Model S’ safeguards alerted Tesla of the unauthorized interface, and the company promptly contacted the customer, warning that such actions could void the car’s warranty. The customer reportedly complied, but the story raised some eyebrows nonetheless.

RELATED: Tesla Model S updates drive warranty to eight years and unlimited miles

The second spark for increased hacker security was higher profile. A Chinese tech convention called SyScan challenged nerds to slice into the Model S, with a prize of $10,000 up for grabs. One group, called Qihoo 360 Technology Co., managed to activate the car’s headlights, horn, and sunroof remotely. As you might guess, Tesla was perturbed.

Bypassing the Model S’ computer firewall could be more damaging than a non-standard web browser or misbehaving sunroof, however. The Tesla is basically a rolling computer, and the company sends updates to the car via the Internet, so a thief could potentially locate, start, or steal the vehicle with nothing but a laptop.

But sleep well, Model S owners, Tesla is boosting its defense.

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