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Hack a Tesla Model S, win $10,000

$10,000 will be yours if your hacking skills are up to the task.

Hacking can normally land you in a great deal of trouble, but sometimes the cleverest computer minds are rewarded enviable sums of money. In the case of the 2014 SyScan Conference in Beijing on July 16th, hacking a Tesla Model S will land you a princely sum of US$10,000.

The competition, which is not officially endorsed by Tesla, will require gifted geeks to gain access to the 17-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Proof of hacking will come from said geek being able to surf the internet and fiddle around with the all-electric car’s vehicle controls from a remote computer. The exact rules of the competition are unclear.

This task will not be easy, a fact reflected in the size of the prize. Tesla enlisted the help of hacker genius Kristin Paget to ensure its system is safe, which it needs to be when you consider the Model S is connected to the grand-old internet via the driver’s smartphone.

Hacking ‘ransoms’ are actually quite common. Microsoft, for instance, hands out large sums of money to those who can find “zero-days” (vulnerabilities in its systems that it was unaware of) ─ a sort of open window that hackers can use for nefarious reasons.

It sounds like a boring task but the rewards are high ─ and the benefits can be felt by anyone who uses a computer. The recent Heartbleed vulnerability basically left the door of internet security wide open and we all had to change our internet passwords. For the third time.

Admittedly hacking a car is of less importance. But as we head towards a future with cars that use computers to drive themselves, system security will become a major concern. Would you really want someone else gaining control of your car while you are inside it? Anyone who has seen 2004 movie I, Robot will know the answer to that.

Best to board a flight to Beijing if you think you are (mentally) tough enough. SyScan Conference runes from the 16th to 17th of July, 2014.