Tesla, known for its innovative electric vehicles, has found itself in hot water due to its practice of locking certain vehicle features behind a paywall. While this is not a new phenomenon in the automotive industry, Tesla owners have expressed their frustration over having to pay extra for features like faster acceleration and heated rear car seats, even after purchasing the car outright. However, a group of researchers from TU Berlin has discovered a potential backdoor that allows users to bypass Tesla’s paywall, thanks to a flaw in the architecture of Tesla’s AMD chips.

The Chip Flaw

The flaw resides in the third-generation Media Control Unit (MCU-Z) of Tesla’s vehicles, which is powered by an AMD RDNA 2-based Ryzen APU. The researchers at TU Berlin were able to exploit a physical flaw in the architecture to perform a voltage fault injection attack on the AMD Security Processor (ASP). This attack allowed them to gain root access and run arbitrary software on the infotainment system, effectively bypassing Tesla’s software locks.

Unpatchable “Tesla Jailbreak”

The researchers dubbed this discovery the “Tesla Jailbreak” as it grants users the ability to run unauthorized software on the infotainment system of Tesla’s vehicles. By gaining root permissions, they were able to make changes to the underlying Linux system of Tesla’s AMD hardware. This not only allows them to decrypt encrypted NVMe storage but also gives them access to private user data such as the phonebook and calendar entries.

Implications for User Privacy

While this backdoor presents an opportunity for Tesla owners to enjoy paywalled features for free, it also opens up the possibility of hackers accessing their private data. The researchers acknowledge that the architecture flaw poses a potential risk to user privacy. It becomes crucial for Tesla to address this flaw promptly and release a patch to mitigate any potential security vulnerabilities.

Expansion of Car Usage in Unsupported Regions

In addition to bypassing the paywall, the exploitation of the chip flaw can also benefit car usage in unsupported regions. Tesla has limitations on certain features based on geographical locations. By gaining access to the infotainment system, users may be able to surpass these limitations and enjoy features that were previously unavailable to them.

The Larger Picture

While Tesla is not the only car manufacturer to implement paywalled features, this discovery sheds light on the potential vulnerabilities within automotive systems. It serves as a reminder that even the most advanced vehicles are susceptible to software and hardware flaws. Car manufacturers must prioritize the security and privacy of their users’ data while still providing convenient and enjoyable features.

The backdoor found in Tesla’s AMD chips reveals a flaw in the architecture that allows users to bypass the paywall and unlock paywalled features for free. While this discovery may be appealing to some Tesla owners, it also poses significant risks to user privacy. Tesla must address this flaw promptly to ensure the security of their customers’ data. Furthermore, this revelation emphasizes the need for car manufacturers to prioritize security measures in their vehicles to protect against potential vulnerabilities.


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