by zer0x0ne — on


some of my favourite websites: null byte the hackers news hackaday pen test partners cso online infosec writers security week xkcd

wonder how to - null byte

Retrieved title: Null Byte « WonderHowTo, 3 item(s)
How to Catch USB Rubber Duckies on Your Computer with USBRip

If left unattended, a hacker with a USB Rubber Ducky and physical access to the computer can infiltrate even the most secure computer. Such attacks often go undetected without the use of a tool like USBRip, which can provide you with assurance that your device hasn't been compromised. While it can be hard to know if your device has been accessed in the past, enabling logging can make it easier to determine when a suspicious device has been inserted into a port. USBRip can't look through old system logs to catch past events, but it can keep an eye on everything that happens after installing it... more

Thanks for Your Interest in eBooks from Null Byte

Thanks for your interest in our Null Byte eBooks. These products aren't ready yet, but sign up here to be alerted when they are. Let us know in the comments what topics you'd like covered. For now, check out the links below for some guides to get you started. Jump right in with our Linux basics series, our guides to Wifi hacking, or learn Metasploit and brush up on the latest recon guides. Look through our Mr. Robot Hacks or check out our Cyber Weapons Lab Video Series.... more

How to Exploit WebDAV on a Server & Get a Shell

The internet has undoubtedly changed the way we work and communicate. With technological advances, more and more people can collaborate on the web from anywhere in the world. But this remote-friendly environment inherently brings security risks, and hackers are always finding ways to exploit systems for other uses. WebDAV, or Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning, is a protocol that allows users to remotely collaborate and edit content on the web. It is an extension of HTTP but uses its own distinct features to enhance the standard HTTP methods and headers. The protocol is mainly used for... more

the hackers news

Retrieved title: The Hacker News, 3 item(s)
U.S. Charges Huawei with Stealing Trade Secrets from 6 Companies

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged Huawei with racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets from six US firms, in a significant escalation of a lawsuit against the Chinese telecom giant that began last year. Accusing Huawei and its affiliates of "using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from US

500 Chrome Extensions Caught Stealing Private Data of 1.7 Million Users

Google removed 500 malicious Chrome extensions from its Web Store after they found to inject malicious ads and siphon off user browsing data to servers under the control of attackers. These extensions were part of a malvertising and ad-fraud campaign that's been operating at least since January 2019, although evidence points out the possibility that the actor behind the scheme may have been

Download: Definitive 'IR Management and Reporting' Presentation Template

The realistic approach to security is that incidents occur. While ideally, the CISO would want to prevent all of them, in practice, some will succeed to a certain degree—making the ability to efficiently manage an incident response process a mandatory skill for any CISO. Moreover, apart from the management of the actual response process, the CISO must also be able to efficiently communicate


Retrieved title: Hackaday, 3 item(s)
A Cheap And Easy GoPro Mount For Model Rocketry

Launching model rockets is fun, but the real meat of the hobby lies in what you do next. Some choose to instrument their rockets or carry other advanced payloads. [seamster] likes to film his flights, and built a nosecone camera package to do so. 

A GoPro is the camera of choice for [seamster]’s missions, with its action cam design making it easy to fire off with a single press of a button. To mount it on the rocket, the nosecone was designed in several sections. The top and bottom pieces are 3D printed, which are matched with a clear plastic cylinder cut from a soda bottle. Inside the cylinder, the GoPro and altimeter hardware are held in place with foam blocks, cut to shape from old floor mats. The rocket’s parachute is attached to the top of the nose cone, which allows the camera to hang in the correct orientation on both the ascent and descent phases of the flight. Check out the high-flying videos created with this setup after the break.

It’s a simple design that [seamster] was able to whip up in Tinkercad in just a few hours, and one that’s easily replicable by the average maker at home. Getting your feet wet with filming your flights has never been easier – we’ve certainly come a long way from shooting on film in the 1970s.

Have LED Bulbs Reached Their Final (and Cheapest) Form?

[electronupdate] has done a lot of LED light bulb teardowns over the years, witnessing a drive towards ever-cheaper and ever-simpler implementations, and suspects that LED light bulb design has finally reached its ultimate goal. This teardown of a recent dollar store example shows that cost-cutting has managed to shave even more off what was already looking like a market saturated with bottom-dollar design.

The electrical components inside this glowing model of cost-cutting consists of one PCB (previously-seen dollar store LED bulb examples had two), eleven LEDs, one bridge rectifier, two resistors, and a controller IC. A wirewound resistor apparently also serves as a fuse, just in case.

Inside the unmarked controller IC. The design is as cheap as it is clever in its cost-cutting.

That’s not all. [electronupdate] goes beyond a simple teardown and has decapped the controller IC to see what lurks inside, and the result is shown here. This controller is responsible for driving the LEDs from the ~100 Volts DC that the bridge rectifier and large electrolytic cap present to it, and it’s both cheap and clever in its own way.

The top half is a big transistor for chopping the voltage and the bottom half is the simple control logic; operation is fast enough that no flicker is perceived in the LEDs, and no output smoothing cap is needed. The result, of course, is fewer components and lower cost.

Some of you may recall that back in the early days of LED lighting, bulbs that could last 100,000 hours were a hot promise. That didn’t happen for a variety of reasons and the march towards being an everyday consumable where cost was paramount continued. [electronupdate] feels they have probably reached that ultimate goal, at least until something else changes. They work, they’re cheap, and just about everything else has been successfully pried up and tossed out the door.

Make A Set Of Headphones From Scratch

There are a variety of ways to enjoy your audio, of which headphones are one. Making a set of headphones is a straightforward enough project, but [madaeon] has taken the art to a new level by building the headphone drivers from scratch rather than using an off-the-shelf pair.

The result is a set of moving coil drivers with a construction technique involving using the semi-opaque thin window from an envelope as a diaphragm and as a former for the coil. Cyanoacrylate adhesive holds everything in place. The diaphragm is suspended across the mouth of a cardboard tube with the coil positioned above a magnet, resulting in the minimum moving mass necessary for as good a sound reproduction as possible. Judge for yourself, there’s a video that we’ve placed below the break.

The drivers are placed in a set of 3D-printed on-ear holders, and while they probably won’t match an expensive set of commercial headphones, we’d hazard a guess that they won’t have too bad quality. At the very least, it’s an interesting design to base further experimentation on.

Surprisingly few home made speaker or headphone drivers have made it onto these pages, probably because of the ubiquity of the ready-made article. An exception is this flexible PCB speaker, and of course we’ve also talked about home made electrostatic speakers.

pen test partners

Retrieved title: Pen Test Partners, 3 item(s)
Business Email Compromise. What to do

The FBI has just released it’s annual Internet Crime Report for 2019, it makes for some really interesting (and depressing) reading. The mainstream media focused on the headline figure of $3.5Bn in losses in 2019, but what caught my eye is the Business Email Compromise (BEC) or CEO Fraud stats.

I usually include these in my security awareness training and noticed that this year they have gone up yet again. In 2017 they amounted to $675m, they doubled in 2018 to £1.2Bn, then last year they increased again to £1.7Bn. This is a staggering figure, but what is interesting is this $500m increase is from an increase of just 3700 reports. That’s an average of $136,000 per report!

Changing face of BEC

Statistics are one thing, but the target of the fraud is also changing. The majority of these instances were where companies were targeted through a finance team requesting money be sent out. However, this year saw an increase in attacks against HR and Payroll to divert employee salaries. Simply, the attacker contacts your HR team and pretend to be the employee and state they have changed banks and want their salary paid in to a different account. HR make the change and come payday the salary is paid to the fraudster.

On the face of it this attack is not going to net much revenue when targeting James in customer services, but when you consider the net monthly salary of corporate C level staff, this can net a significant sum.

Commonly we are seeing attackers use multiple tools to convince staff the request is genuine. Although it’s called Business Email Compromise, these days with large organisations the victim receiving the email won’t know the voice of the supposed sender and so attackers will phone your staff and state “I just sent you an email, can you process it…”. This will add more weight to the attack and make it much more likely to succeed.

Invoice Fraud

Invoice fraud is something commonly bundled in to the BEC bucket, though it tends to hurt individuals much more than large businesses, though not all. In a recent case, a customer who had some plumbing work completed, sent a significant sum of money to the wrong bank account. This was in relation to an invoice they had received for the completed project.

After investigating, it transpires the plumber’s email service had been compromised, the attackers searched the sent items and found the plumber had recently sent an email with the correct invoice details on it for work completed and then changed the bank details and resent the invoice to the customer. They then set up email rules to prevent emails back from the customer from being seen by the plumber. The customer paid the invoice and both parties were out of pocket.

This plumber had a relatively weak password on their email and didn’t use two factor authentication…

This technique is commonly used in larger attacks, if an attacker can gain internal access to corporate email they can send internal emails to staff which will appear much more genuine and are highly likely to be actioned.

So how do you protect against BEC

There are many ways to prevent this attack, but in my view top of the pile is education. This attack looks to exploit peoples willingness to help without validating, so training staff to validate before helping is fundamental. Staff need to know what the attacks look like and how to handle them should they receive any.

Often this training will only focus on the finance teams, but as we have seen, your HR and payroll teams are just a vulnerable. So include them. Remember your HR teams are naturally going to receive a lot more external email and so ensuring they are equipped to spot this type of attack is crucial.

In addition, the attackers want staff to bypass existing processes. So there are two things to do here. Firstly, make sure you have processes that require validation prior to sending money externally, and secondly, empower staff to say no, not without validation, even if it looks like it is the boss asking. This is true of suppliers who want to change bank accounts. Your process should be to validate the change with existing contacts.

You can include multiple layers of authorisation when spending money, this will make the attack harder to perform as attackers will need to convince multiple people.

When handling phone calls, teach your staff to remain firm, but courteous, stick to the process and treat calls that look to solicit information or support an unexpected email as suspicious until fully verified.

Enforce strong passwords on your systems by getting your staff password managers, then enforce two factor authentication (2FA). Whilst 2FA won’t help staff who are unwittingly committing the fraud, it will make it much harder for attackers to compromise internal email systems.

Email SPAM technology is not really going to help here. These emails tend to look realistic and appear as genuine emails – your spam control is unlikely to detect them. That said, commonly attackers will use a domain that looks similar to your own domain. A simple technical control is to turn on any domain similarity controls you may have in your spam filters. These will detect if the email domain being used is similar to your own, if it is the email should get redirected to quarantine. Though this would need testing first to ensure it doesn’t trap genuine emails.

Another really simple control is to alert your staff if the email has come from an external location. This is an easy rule to turn on at your gateway which puts an alert message at the start of the email body. For example:


We constantly hear when companies have been breached that “the attack was sophisticated”, or it was an APT, but BEC really isn’t. A lot of attacks use nothing more than a webmail service like Gmail and Hotmail and a bit of imagination tied in with some basic open source intelligence. This is not a sophisticated attack, but neither is the defending against it. Some basic steps are all that’s needed to prevent it.

If you’d like to improve your staff’s awareness of good security controls I’d be happy to come help. You can get hold of me on Twitter @_tonygee_.

Reverse Engineering the Tesla Firmware Update Process


How does the Tesla update its firmware? What did we find when reverse engineering the display and instrument cluster?

Here’s the result of a couple of weeks work, working on a real vehicle that (mostly) worked after we had finished.

Part 1: analysing the hardware, complete with a 14 layer PCB in the CID

Part 2: reversing the firmware update process & the importance of Suicide Bomber mode

We’re publishing now as the process has recently changed with the Model 3

CID VCM Software Architecture

The CID is much bigger and more complicated than the majority of embedded systems and – unusually for an embedded system – its operating system is the full version of Ubuntu – distributed by Linux.

In the kernel, we found custom elements such as Harman Redbend, The kernel was built with the Linaro toolchain.

In order to fulfil the legal requirements of using open-source software, Tesla revealed the source of the kernel half way through the project. However, this does not help a great deal with reverse engineering as it only represents a small part of the system.

Bootloading the VCM

This seems similar to many Tegra devices.

The BPMP (Boot and Power Management Processor) is a secondary processor of the Tegra SoC. It executes a read-only bootloader stored in ROM and is an ARM7 processor. We powered down the main processor in the Tegra at this point.

A significant amount of information is provided when the BPMP ROM bootloader reads a piece of data from the NOR flash. This is called the BCT (Boot Configuration Table). Information includes:

  • Addresses of several bootloaders in memory
  • Where to load the bootloader into SDRAM
  • Entry point for the bootloader in SDRAM
  • Configuration of the SDRAM connected to the system (needs to be accessed in order to boot)

The BPMP begins execution after copying the first stage bootloader into SDRAM. We had not switched on the main processor in the Tegra at this point.

The first stage bootloader appears to be called QUICKBOOT and its size is approximately 56KiBytes. Clear references are made to AES-CMAC – a Message Authentication Code. “AES-CMAC Xor” are among the strings used here which are also found in U-boot, the open-source bootloader (https://github.com/u-boot/u-boot/commit/b149c4c399b111cec1ff7505ca9fabbeeb4fe394).

Strings from the first stage bootloader

One might assume that the bootloader is based on U-boot, but the specific crypto functions were in fact written by Nvidia, and could therefore be freely used elsewhere by Nvidia.

The main processor powers up when the first stage bootloader sets up the SoC correctly. The second stage bootloader is then loaded, to allow the main processor to run.

When we unpacked and ran the kernel, we found that the second-stage bootloader was very simple. We did not see any signs of cryptographic protections. It does not seem to be based on any widely known bootloaders but rather we think it is fully custom.

Loosely following the Android bootimg format, the kernel image is made up of a kernel and ramdisk in one file.

A script called /sbin/init-stage-0.sh runs once the kernel is activated. Its primary purpose is to render the system fully operative by mounting the NAND flash partitions.

NOR flash

We found the BCT, first and second stage bootloaders, and kernel in the NOR flash .

Layout of the NOR flash on CID

We found that numerous partitions were mirrored into primary and recovery partitions.

NAND flash

Stored as sqaushfs filesystem, the /usr/ filesystem contains binaries and scripts that do not change during normal operation. Common in low-resource embedded systems, SquashFS is a compressed, read-only file system that allows unchangeable parts of a filesystem to occupy a smaller amount of the flash memory.

Containing logs, the /var/ directory is a small 128Mbyte ext4 filesystem.

Containing upgrade files and transient data, the /home/ directory is stored in the remaining flash as an ext4 filesystem.

Overlayed onto the read-only file system, the /home and /var directories only allow a select few directories to be read/write, which means the bulk of the system is read-only.

Dual-bank firmware

After the initial ROM bootloader has run, the bootloading process has the choice of two images:

  • ROM bootloader – only a single copy of this is available. It is immutable and unlikely to fail unless there are catastrophic hardware issues.
  • stage1_primary/stage1_recovery – chosen sequentially by the ROM bootloader. The second one runs if the first fails. The two bootloaders look almost identical except for the location in memory
  • stage2_primary/stage2_recovery – the bootloader that runs here is determined by which of the stage1 bootloaders ran. Again, the two bootloaders look almost identical except for the location in memory
  • kernel_a/kernel_b – these two kernels are very different from one another, in terms of their boot parameters
  • online/offline usr partitions can be mounted when the system starts

Here are the boot parameters of the two kernels:

The init-stage-0.sh script reads the value of thispartid, and loads one of two /usr/ squashfs partitions. If one is damaged, the other one can be used to recover.

We could also see that AppArmor is normally enabled. This Mandatory Access Control system allows the kernel to confine binaries to restricted sets of resources. Ubuntu enables this by default. The configuration on the Tesla looks to be standard.

Secure Boot

Secure boot is supported by the Tegra, however the documentation and code examples around it look fragmented. In developer forums, there was some confusion about how to implement it. This is common with higher-end processors.

We could not conclusively validate to what extent secure boot was used, but we did discover several things.

The signature of the BCT is verified by the ROM bootloader via an internally stored key. This is called the SBK. An AES-CMAC is taken of part of the BCT and verified. This is symmetric cryptography – if the key was discovered, a valid BCT could be generated.

We were unable to ascertain whether the SBK is unique per device/vehicle, or common to larger groups. We would need access to multiple vehicles to determine this.

Alternatively, storing only a public key internally, the Tegra can use public key cryptography. Even if the public key were discovered, it would still not be possible to generate a correctly signed BCT image. This is a much stronger alternative to the symmetric keys. By our reckoning, software support was not in place before 2015 – after the Tesla CID was deployed.

The first stage bootloader performs an AES-CMAC of the second stage bootloader. We could not ascertain which key was used here, but Tegra documentation indicates the SBK could also be used.

Only a CRC of the kernel is performed by the second stage bootloader. An attacker could potentially load a malicious kernel onto the device at this stage, if the chain of trust is broken.

Userspace Software

The CID enters userspace once it has booted.

A series of Qt binaries renders the user-interface of the CID. We performed only very limited reverse engineering of these. An 8 character PIN protects a service menu on the CID, which seems to change daily and is implemented by the CID.

Shell scripts implement a larger amount of the functionality in the vehicle. Reverse engineering is made easy since these are human-readable text files.

Firmware update mechanisms

We observed multiple firmware update mechanisms.

A VPN connection, outbound from the vehicle to Tesla’s systems, was central to all the mechanisms. We did not observe any other form of transport encryption; all requests from the CID were made with unencrypted HTTP.

We saw the following update mechanisms:

  • Shell script – looks like a legacy system, but has much in common with the later updater binary mechanism.
  • Update binary – a large multi-call binary polls for updates, downloads them, and can apply them to the system.
  • Kernel/bootloader – the kernel and bootloader are updated by a specific binary.
  • Map – the VPN connection is used to download mapping data
  • Conventional ECU – to distribute firmware updates from the CID to the ECUs via the CAN gateway, a complex process is used.
  • USB firmware for the Wi-Fi module and cellular modem.

We consider each of these below.

VPN connection

An OpenVPN connection out to a Tesla server is established by the CID. Per-vehicle keys and certificates are used to perform this. The VIN of the vehicle is the subject of the certificate.

Example VPN key

We were able to extract these keys from the filesystem with local access to the CID, and then connect into the Tesla private network by using them on another machine. The keys expired on the 31st May 2018. There did not appear to be a fallback mechanism if they had not since been renewed by a firmware update.

With the VPN securely configured, it is not possible to intercept communications or tamper with them.

VPN can be established via Wi-Fi or cellular – whichever is available. Certain aspects of communication (for example, large downloads) showed affinity for Wi-Fi. This is presumably to reduce costs to Tesla.

When connecting to the VPN, a number of routes were established automatically:

  • 32.0.0/16
  • 33.0.0/16
  • 224.0.0/24
  • 232.75.0/24
  • 232.79.0/24

Full port scans of these ranges were carried out, under the terms of the Tesla bug bounty, and only uncovered a handful of hosts:

  • vn.teslamotors.com – vehicle data and status, security token update for access to diagnostic and IC SSH
  • vn.teslamotors.com – firmware downloads and updates
  • Firmware-bundles.vn.teslamotors.com – a defunct firmware update server
  • vn.teslamotors.com – map data and updates

VPN keys were stored on the large SD card that is connected to the gateway, according to earlier reports on Tesla security. By removing the SD card, these could be trivially recovered. This was not the case on the vehicle under test; here they were stored on the NAND flash on the VCM in the CID.

The firmware server

Example JSON response from server

Shell Script Firmware Updates

We found a legacy firmware update mechanism on the Tesla filesystem, employing a series of shell scripts to perform updates. It provided a lot of useful information, even though it was no longer operational (no valid download URL was ever returned).

Handshake firmware download

Over the Tesla VPN, the shell script /local/bin/do-firmware-handshake obtains and installs firmware updates.

This script can be started via several sources:

  • Using the upstart event manager periodically
  • (Although not seen in operation) on response to an upstart event named “firmware-handshake”
  • Manually (although not observed, it is noted in comments in the file)

The script obtains and applies updates from a high-level, as follows.

Using a sentinel file, the script checks to see if an existing upgrade is taking place.

The shell script, that unpacks the upgrade package and installs it, checks to see if the “unpack.sh” script is running. Do-firmware-handshake exits if an upgrade is ongoing, since an update is already in progress.

One can assume that the gateway is processing the upgrade and do-hardware-handshake exits if the sentinel file is younger than 20 minutes. Therefore no active check against the gateway is performed to see if it is occupied. It is assumed that the gateway update has hung if it is older than 20 minutes, and the handshake process continues.

To see if the VPN is connected, the script checks that the interface tun0 is present. The script waits 30s to try again if the VPN is not connected. No active attempt is made to establish a VPN tunnel – another external process does this.

The script makes a connection to the following URL once the VPN connection is established:


The following data are sent:

vehicle_hardware_configuration_string – derived from the “Hardware IDs”, this is a comma separated string describing the vehicle’s configuration, stored by the gateway. Another shell script, /usr/local/bin/vehicle_hardware_configuration_string, generates this string. It’s format:

– read from /etc/swver, this is the software version running on the CID.

Then the server returns a JSON string, expected to contain the following fields:

  • Firmware_download_url – the location of the file we will be downloading
  • Firmware_download_file_md5 – the MD5 checksum of the file we will be downloading
  • Download_status_url – a URL to post back the status of the upgrade
  • Vehicle_job_status_url
  • Unpack_size – size of the unpacked firmware file
  • Install_size – size required to install the firmware file

We found that it was still possible to make these requests and receive responses. Crucially, we found it was possible to make requests for any VIN using the VPN for another car.

We were surprised to find that, rather than a robust solution like jq, the JSON response is manually parsed using awk, gsub and split.

Some basic sanity checking of these fields is then performed.

To indicate that an upgrade has commenced, the download_status_url is stored in the sentinel file.

By making a HTTP HEAD request for the file, the size of the firmware_download_url file is then checked. We thought this an odd mechanism to use, since it could simply be transmitted in the JSON response. The firmware_download_url pointed to the server firmware-bundles.vn.teslamotors.com in all responses obtained. Despite being issued via the handshake process, none of the links worked.

Using the unpack_size and install_size from the JSON response, basic checks are performed for spare space on the flash filesystem.

To prevent the CID from sleeping for 60 minutes, a request is made to the web API running on the CID on port 4035.

Now to download the file. It is downloaded as one part – not chunked or split in any way. If it is not the expected size, the download is attempted again. There is no way of escaping this condition, meaning that the script could end up in an infinite loop.

These files would only be downloaded only over the Tesla VPN for the example firmware_download_url obtained during testing.

The md5 checksum of the file is then checked against the expected value. Two further attempts are made to download the file if it does not match.

The user is prompted to upgrade via a pop-up on the CID screen, once the file is downloaded. Another shell script does this, /usr/local/bin/get-response. It makes a request to the web API running on the CID on port 4070, and waits an hour for a response.

The downloaded file is moved to /home/tesla/dropbox, ready to be installed, if the user accepts the update.

USB update

Using a USB memory stick, it is also possible to place update files into /home/tesla/dropbox. Shell script /usr/local/bin/usb-upgrade performs this.

The script looks for files in the folder /toinstall, with the filename format:


Using the following table, the is looked up from the VIN number of the vehicle:

Certain VINs are handled differently via USB update

This table indicates there are development vehicles with pre-set VINS.

The file is copied across to the dropbox and then installed, if the current version of the software on the CID is not present in this filename. Since the check is naïve and ignores the actual version, this would allow both upgrade and downgrade of firmware to occur.

It seems that there is a bug in the script. The returned is simply blank if the VIN of the vehicle is not present in the script. This causes the following form of files to match:


In a given folder on a USB stick, it would appear that an attacker could place a crafted firmware update file and execute arbitrary code. We tried this many times, but could not trigger it. Another security control was preventing the script from being called, but we could not determine what it was.

Dropbox install

The script “unpack.sh”, located in /local/bin, installs packages that are placed in the /home/tesla/dropbox folder. This script describes the process and is heavily commented and.

Although it is custom, the package format is very simple and would be easy for an attacker to recreate.

The process, from a high-level, is as follows:

Check that a filename has been provided, and the file exists.

Once the car is “parked”, another shell script performs this check – /usr/local/bin/car-is-parked. On port 4035 of the CID, this makes a HTTP request to a web API to check that the car is in gear “park”. Of note, car-is-parked script contains functions to check the speed is zero, but these are not called.

The script waits for 5 minutes and checks again if the car is not parked.

To prevent the CID from sleeping for 20 minutes, a request is then made to the web API on port 4035.

Using the utility mktemp, a temporary directory is created in /home/tesla/unpack.tmp-XXXXX.

The tar file is unpacked into the temporary directory.

The existence of 4 files is checked:

  • NAME of the package
  • VERSION number of the package
  • md5sums of files in the package
  • tar.gz – files associated with the package

The process does not check to see if it exists, but it expects a file “install.sh” to be present.

To check the integrity of the files, the file md5sums is fed to the tool md5sum. This adds no security and is purely an integrity check.

With the name, version and data.tar.gz passed as parameters, the file install.sh is executed. For ultimate control over what the packages do, install.sh can perform any actions that the root user normally can.

The install.sh file can contain arbitrary commands and the entire process runs as root. In order to take control, an attacker can place a valid upgrade package in dropbox to carry out arbitrary actions on the CID or IC.

We have seen comments that indicate that it is known that this process is not robust and has issues:

Far from being secure, this mechanism has few protections outside of the transport encryption provided by the VPN. This is probably the primary reason why it is deprecated.

We do not know why it is still present on the system. Developers may be concerned that removing of one of the numerous scripts could cause unintended consequences.

Updater updates

We think this is the normal mechanism for updating firmware. It is a large, monolithic binary containing a huge amount of functionality. Fortunately, reverse engineering is accelerated by it being statically linked (i.e., all code is compiled into it) and a debug build (i.e., it contains strings and function names that would normally be stripped).

Statically linked with debug information

Activated by changing the name of the binary, the updater can take several different “personalities”. Each one can open a command port and a HTTP port, which listen on all interfaces of the device.

  • ic-updater – updater for the IC. Opens port 28493 for commands, and 21576 as a web server.
  • cid-updater – updater for the CID. Opens port 25956 for commands, and 20564 as a web server.
  • gwxfer – used to transfer files to the gateway, a binary replacement for the gwxfer shell script,
  • sm-updater – it is unclear what “sm” refers to. This could be something used at the factory, since the rest of the binary has reference to “sitemaster”.
  • ethdeploy – appears to be a means to deploy packages to other devices within the vehicle
  • upackager – related to the gateway, taking parameters for release.tgz (update for ECUs) and internal.dat (configuration of the vehicle) and vhcs (vehicle configuration string)

Different names for different personalities

Depending on which name it is started with, the binary behaves differently; this includes the services it performs, paths it uses, and techniques. The code references the variable where the personality is stored over 330 times.

To make it easy to determine when the code deviates based on personality, 0 corresponds to the IC, 1 to the CID, and 5 to the SM.

Ports for the command/http for different personalities

Running the updater as a “cluster”, the system is intended to work with multiple devices (the CID and IC). Connecting out and downloading firmware over the VPN, the CID acts as a master. Termed “relay” in the code, the command/HTTP ports are then used to distribute the firmware to the IC.

The updater performs certain tasks on startup, such as examining the current system, connecting outbound to the firmware server (known as a “handshake”), and starting the command and web servers.

Example of conditional flows based on personality

Although many errors are seen, it is possible to run the binary in the QEMU emulator. The binary starts two listening services, as expected.

Running IC-updater in an emulator

The binary performs a sha512 hash of itself during initialisation. We were surprised to find that, although sha512 outputs 64 bytes, only the first 8 bytes are retained. This means that it possible to find a hash collision using brute force.


hash_self performs a sha512 hash of the binary

Truncated sha512 hash output

Normal sha512sum of file

Later, when making requests to the firmware update server, this hash is used as part of the User-Agent string.

Hash being put into the User-Agent part of the request

An attacker could report the expected sha512 hash whilst running alternative malicious software, although this means that the server can determine which version of the updater is in-use. It is not a strong protection against malicious action.

Carried out by a timer or on-demand, the updater can process a series of commands in a buffer. They can be inputted by cid-updater or the opened command port, allowing other devices on the Tesla ethernet network to carry out actions.

The following is an example of the task “fwheartbeat” being started with a 1hr interval with a call to the function start_regular_timer:

fwhearbeat added on a timer

By calling the function do_after_e_ms, it is also possible to run a command after a fixed period. Here is an example of a firmware download being restarted:

Download restart being run after a time has elapsed

Referenced by strings, these commands can take many values, stored in a large array.

Array of commands

With different parameters, commands “install” and “patch” both end up calling the function do_install.

Like an interactive command processor, the command port of the process provides usage tips and other help.

Example of the ic-updater being asked to serve a file over HTTP

Downloading the served file over HTTP

Current status reported over command port

A session token is required to secure the commands between the IC and CID. This changes once daily and is synchronised from the Tesla servers over the VPN. An attacker can intercept this token if they can sniff the connection between the IC and CID, and use it to send their own commands.

We were able to put the binary into a development mode. When we had done this, most of the security functionality, including signature checking, was disabled.

Development mode causing signature check to be skipped

The binary contains a vast amount of functionality. The most important processes, from a high level, are as follows:

  • Handshake –the process of sending a request to a Tesla server containing vehicle details and receiving a response to carry out actions on the vehicle.
  • Downloading and decrypting various firmware update files based on the handshake
  • Installing downloaded and decrypted firmware update files, either termed patches (full firmware updates), bsdiff40 (binary difs) or Redbend deltas (proprietary binary diffs) into the offline flash partitions
  • Relay – copying firmware from the CID to IC
  • Redeploy – copying offline aspects of the firmware to online, for recovery Other functionality is contained within the binary, but is not used.


Similar to the shell script update, data about the vehicle is keyed using the VIN and sent to a remote server which responds with any available update.

A POST request to the firmware server is made by the function do_handshake. To connect from a file, this takes the configuration of the firmware server (including server name, port and path).

Config for the handshake request

More complex than in the shell script version, the data contained within the POST request include the following:

  • Vehicle VIN – retrieved and cached from the gateway rather than read from a file. Sent in the path of the request.
  • VHCS (vehicle hardware configuration string) – a string based on hwids.txt recovered from the gateway (generated using function fetch_vhcs). Sent as a POST parameter.
  • Current firmware signature – read using the function read_firmware_signatures. Reads the firmware signature from the last 40 bytes of the memory partition holding the /usr/ partition. Sent base64 encoded as a POST parameter.

Format string for the POST request

The function request_HTTP makes the POST request. It can only make HTTP requests, not HTTPS ones. The updater binary has no TLS functionality at all, meaning handshakes are always carried out in the plain, relying on the security of the Tesla VPN.

The function tun0_is_up checks the VPN connection. This seems naïve, simply checking for the existence of the device tun0. An attacker with control of the CID could establish their own VPN without the updater binary being aware.

The updater binary itself does not appear to have any functionality to establish the VPN connection. Although it could not be determined which one, this must be carried out by an external process.

The server gives a JSON response to the HTTP POST request. Generally, no response is given if the request is malformed or incorrect.

A typical handshake response

The function handle_handshake_download handles the JSON response.

In the handshake response, tens of fields can be present. Individual fields can be pulled from the JSON copy_handshake_var_at, which takes a parameter of the field name. At least 35 different field names are used in 72 references to this function.

Multiple calls to find fields in the JSON response

This indicates the huge complexity of the firmware update mechanism in the Tesla. Whilst the vehicle was under test, very few of these fields were seen to be used.

Here is an example of the md5 hash being read from the handshake response in the function do_install.

Reading the field firmware_download_file_md5 from the response

The function handshake_is_actionable is then called. The handshake will be prevented from taking action if there is an upgrade being downloaded, already staged on the CID, being relayed to the IC, or being installed.

Reasons for not actioning a handshake

The function initiate_handshake_install is called if the handshake can be actioned. The handshake response is stored in a file for later processing, and a command is added to the queue.


Three different fields can be contained in the handshake response for files to download:

  • Firmware_download_url – a conventional update, as per the shell script method
  • Bsdiff40_download_url – binary diffs using an open-source solution
  • Rbdlt_download_url – proprietary Redbend deltas

Using HTTP, they all appear to be downloaded in a similar fashion. Here’s an example URL:

We noted several interesting characteristics of these URLs:

  • Generated in response to each handshake request and apparently unique
  • Always have an expiry date of two weeks after the handshake response is received.
  • A HMAC (hashed message authentication code) appears to check the integrity of the rest of the request.
  • Server they are downloaded from is available from the public Internet –no requirement for VPN connection to be established.

Due to the expiry and HMAC, we were unable to guess or brute-force other firmware download links.

Of note, there is risk of interception and tampering due to the download being performed using HTTP (no encryption) over the public Internet.

The field firmware_download_file_md5 checks the integrity of the download. While the hash is downloaded over the secured VPN, the file is downloaded over the public Internet. It is likely that the MD5 hash would no longer match if an attacker tampered with the download.

Wi-Fi or cellular connection can be used to perform the download. Another field, wifi_wait_until, will allow the download to happen over Wi-Fi for a limited period of time. We believe this is to avoid costs of downloads over cellular connections, while permitting them for essential updates.

There are fields concerning cryptography, as can be seen in the firmware handshake response:

The crypto key for a firmware download over open Internet

Salsa20 – a light weight algorithm – can be used to encrypt downloaded update files. The function decrypt_and_save_file implements the decryption.

The handshake response sends the entire 256bit key over the VPN, so should remain secure, preventing the firmware downloads over the Internet being intercepted.

All the downloaded files we saw were encrypted. It should be possible to send unencrypted files, but we did not see any evidence of this.


Many different aspects of the system can be updated:

  • /usr partition
  • Kernel
  • bootloader

The /usr partition updates concerns the bulk of the functionality in the updater binary. The system is divided up into an online and offline usr partition for this. At every point they are dealt with as raw memory devices (e.g., /dev/mmcblock0p1), although they are referred to as usr, not as mounted filesystems. “usr” refers to read-only aspects of the memory devices.

Generally speaking, it appears that most firmware updates are applied to the offline partition. Then changes made in the offline partition can either be copied back to the online partition, or run directly from the offline partition.

The following occurs in order to execute changes from the offline partition,:

  • Changes made to the offline partitions (using patch, bsdiff, or Redbend)
  • Signatures of the online and offline partitions are checked to make sure patches are applied correctly.
  • Offline partition is mounted as /newusr; the contents of /newusr/deploy/ can then be executed

The following occurs to copy changes from offline to online:

  • Changes are made to the offline partitions (using patch, bsdiff, or Redbend)
  • Signatures of the online and offline partitions are checked to make sure patches are applied correctly.
  • Update then “redeploys” firmware, which involves copying bootloader, kernel, and usr partitions across to the online partitions.

Applying changes to an offline partition means the system can keep on running while firmware is updated. This appears to go against the concept of a recovery partition – these are overwritten first. It should be difficult for the car to become bricked thanks to the use of multiple checksums and signatures.

The updater binary carries out updates to the kernel and bootloader by making system calls to the sample update program mentioned above, as seen from the parameters passed.

Choosing cid/ic/sm-udpate_sample

Making calls to *-update_sample

The method by which changes are applied can vary.

Conventional full update

tar.gz files are downloaded, unpacked, and a shell script run to action the changes, almost identical to the shell script firmware update above.

Bsdiff firmware update

Downloaded over HTTP, decrypted and then installed, some firmware updates are bsdiff binary diff files.

The function patch_from_bsdiff40_to_offline_dev applies updates.

Overview of patch_from_bsdiff40_to_offline_dev function

/this carries out the following, from a high level:

  • Check the downloaded file is in BSDIFF40 format.
  • Start processing the BSDIFF40 file using statically linked bzip functions
  • Determine which of the flash memory banks is the offline usr (unused) bank.
  • Apply the binary differences across the entire offline usr partition

Operating at the raw flash level, the process is entirely unaware of the filesystem or files contained within it. Prior to the update being applied, it requires that the /usr partition is unmodified. The entire partition is read-only and is not problematic. To ensure the starting point is as expected, a signature check is performed before the update is applied.

Redbend firmware update

The Tesla CID can use Redbend to perform updates, as an alternative to bsdiff. This takes and applies update files (“deltas”) containing differences between the current and new firmware. While it has also been seen in Android mobile phones, marketing material for Redbend suggest it is specifically targeted towards automotive.

It appears, from strings in the updater, that the technology used is called vRM or vRapid Mobile. There is no detailed technical information, but this is mentioned in some locations on the Internet.

The UPI or Update Installer is the software running inside the cid-update. UPG or Update Generator is another piece of software that creates the updates that are deployed.

There is no functionality to download updates in the Redbend portion of the updater. This is handled by Tesla code only.

Large number of RB_ prefixed functions for Redbend

DP files (Delta Package), which can contain multiple individual updates, are processed by the UPI. These files have a CRC32 checksum, called “signature” in the Redbend software. This is an incorrect term; a CRC is only useful for non-malicious integrity protection, not malicious manipulation.

The version of Redbend vRM in use

Very little practical difference was seen between Redbend and bsdiff40 changes applied to the system.


Designed to act as a master, the CID makes requests out to the handshake server, downloads updates, applies them, and “relays” them to the IC.

ic-updater will refuse to perform a handshake

We believe there are several different methods to relay, including sending the entire offline /usr partition, and serving individual files on the HTTP server on the CID, and requesting that the IC downloads them.

Prior to the IC, the CID updates firmware. During our testing, the update to the CID did not proceed (we do not know why). The process of relaying the updates to the IC was not seen in action, so we struggled to determine exactly how it worked.


The updater will “redeploy” the firmware once changes have been applied to the offline flash partitions. Before it reboots the device, this seems to copy the bootloader and kernel (using the cid-update_sample binary) and the /usr partitions across to the online partitions.

As with the relaying, we did not observe this during testing, since neither the CID or IC would accept an update.

Kernel/bootloader updates

A utility called cid-update_sample can be used to update the bootloader and kernel of the device. We found the naming of this file curious, however it is referred to in several other locations.

This does not have multiple personalities for the CID and IC, unlike the main updater binary – although it has different names, the same file is present on both devices.

Running the cid-update_sample binary in an emulator

The cid-update_sample binary is called from two places:

  • A shell script called /usr/local/bin/qber updates the BCT and primary stage 1 and primary stage 2 bootloaders. This script did not appear to be called from anywhere else, but it could be called from inside a downloaded firmware update.
  • From inside cid-update or ic-updater

Interestingly, this binary can perform partial updates of the BCT. We noted this in the help “only SDRAM & Device timing will be updated”.

The SBK – the AES key stored internally on the Tegra SoC – signs most of the data in the BCT. Signed data include the SDRAM and device timing. The file must be signed using the SBK to alter the SDRAM and device timing.

We found an example BCT file in the /usr/deploy folder. It did not contain any signature or bootloader data – only the SDRAM and device timing.

We concluded that the cid-update_sample must retrieve the current BCT, merge the new SDRAM and device timings, and re-sign the data. This means the binary must either be able to access the SBK inside the SoC, or contain a copy of it. We would need to do further reverse engineering to confirm this.

BCT file in update does not contain all signed data

Map updates

Mapping data is stored by the CID on an external microSD card. The VPN connection can be used to periodically update it.

the scripts /usr/local/bin/nav-sync-and-apply-map-patch.sh and nav-apply-map-patch.sh carry out the mechanism by which these are updated.

This performs the following tasks, from a very high-level:

  • Ensures car is awake and does not sleep for 15 minutes
  • Uses rsync to download updates from a URL (rsync://filesync.vn.teslamotors.com/mapdata/patches). Rsync is a file synchronisation tool that can be used to efficiently transmit changes to large datasets across slow or unreliable network links.
  • The updates are tar files which are unpacked onto the SD card.

We saw no signs of integrity protection or authenticity checks.

There is no access control or authentication to access the data – in all regions, anyone with valid VPN keys can download the entire mapping dataset.

The map update remains as shell scripts, despite the other firmware update mechanisms moving from shell scripts to compiled binaries.

Conventional ECU update via gateway

Integrated into the CID, the Tesla gateway is a similar architecture to many IVIs, with a higher power system running the media/UI components, coupled to a lower powered gateway, which in turn is connected to a CAN bus. The IVI is prevented from injecting onto the CAN bus by this gateway.

By keeping the gateway limited in functionality, it is possible to limit the attack surface and complexity of the code. Both are likely to improve security.

Generally speaking, most vehicles tend to have additional CAN gateways separating the CAN buses from each other, for example the drive train from the body systems. The gateway in the Tesla CID is the only CAN gateway found in the vehicle and also performs this function.

With 2MiByte of integrated flash, the gateway is a MPC5668G microcontroller. Specifically marketed for automotive Gateway applications, it employs an e200z6 core which is PowerPC architecture.

We were surprised to find that full datasheets and a reference manual are available for this device. This is unusual for automotive specific microcontrollers.

The Ethernet switch connects the gateway to the CID VCM, IC, and diagnostics port. The entities communicate using various UDP and TCP protocols and are all assigned IP addresses.

Connected to external CAN transceivers are multiple CAN interfaces on the gateway. There a LIN interface, too.

On the mainboard of the CID, the gateway is directly connected to the full-size SD card.

On examining the firmware upgrade we had obtained, we found the gateway runs a customised version of FreeRTOS. A small and simple real-time operating system, it includes functionality such as threads/tasks, mutexes, semaphores,etc. commonly found in automotive applications.

Files transferred over UDP port 3500 are accepted by the firmware running on the gateway. These transfers are performed either by the Perl script /usr/local/bin/gwxfer or the updater binary on the CID. We found no other use of Perl on the system.

Perl gwxfer script

This service has no authentication. The SD card stores any files sent to the gateway.

Files routinely transferred:

  • dat – the configuration of the vehicle, where certain options are enabled or disabled. Sent both to, and received from, the gateway.
  • tgz – a compressed file containing updates for the CAN-connected ECUs.
  • img – an alternative firmware transferred to the gateway to perform ECU updates.

Part of internal.dat

When trying to enable/disable certain features on the vehicle, we were unable to modify the internal.dat file. It seems likely that the gateway makes requests to the individual ECUs to build up the car’s capabilities.

UDP port 1050 accepts certain commands, such as sending/receiving CAN messages, triggering an update, etc, and is also open.

ECU update process from a high level:

Employing one of the other firmware update mechanisms previously mentioned, the CID downloads an update package.

Two files are required to update the ECUs. One is an archive containing updates for all the individual ECUS called “Release.tgz”, and the other is Noboot.img, which is specific firmware for the gateway to update other ECUs.

Multiple mechanisms build a release.tgz file.

A “premastered” release is the first. With no pre-processing, this update is downloaded from firmware servers and applied directly to the ECUs.

The second uses “seeding”. Individual ECU update files are downloaded by the firmware update mechanism into a “seed” directory, then a custom release.tgz is created based on the ECUs which need updating. We think the aim of this may be to reduce how long the gateway spends in “update” mode.

Using the script/binary gwxfer, files are transferred to the gateway and stored directly onto the SD card.

Contents of SD card during upgrade

A public key that is stored in the normal gateway firmware checks the signature of noboot.img.

noboot.img is renamed boot.img when a command is sent to the gateway. boot.img is copied into RAM at 0x40000000 and executed when the gateway is restarted.

(We found that a file called “boot.img” will not be accepted directly by the gateway using gwxfer – we attempted this to bypass signature verification)

Very little of the normal functionality of the gateway is contained in noboot.img. The vehicle largely ceases to operate while the gateway is in update mode. We could not move the vehicle.

Strings from inside the noboot.img

Contents of a recent release.tgz file

The code in noboot.img unpacks the Release.tgz file, which uncovered the following:

  • A series of .hex files – upgrades for the individual ECUs
  • A manifest file containing the list of .hex files along with their versions
  • A metadata file containing CRC32s of the files with a signature

Manifest file


Once again, using a public key stored in the gateway firmware, the gateway appears to check the CRC32 and signature of each file.

The binary firmware for the named ECU contains the .hex files.

The following occurs to program an ECU:

  • To make the update safe, prescribed actions are carried out (e.g., disconnect the battery using the main contactor)
  • Using UDS Security Access commands, unlocks the ECU
  • Send the firmware over UDS
  • Restart the ECU

By writing directly to flash rather than using UDS, the gateway can also update itself. The filename is gtw.hex.

Strings from the gateway firmware

Updates are carried out sequentially. The same ECUs were updated for the two firmware updates that we observed, and this appeared to be most of those in the vehicle. We could not determine if partial updates are carried out.

Firmware updates are not accepted by default, by the ECUs around the vehicle, over the CAN interface. They must be unlocked over CAN via UDS Security Access. During a firmware update, several UDS Security Access transfers were sniffed.

We found that some ECUs, namely the IC, were using static seed/key pairs. Others seemed to be using a different seed. We did not attempt to gather seeds from the individual ECUs to gauge the quality of their randomness.

In noboot.img, there were several sections of code that seemed to handle different UDS seed/key algorithms, but we could not work out how it determined which one a given ECU used.

The firmware files sent to the ECUs do not appear to have any specific validation. This is probably performed by the ECU itself.

There was no signing of files according to analysis of the .hex files. Digital signatures can be identified using entropy analysis. They are almost always high entropy.

Entropy of the RCCM firmware

Entropy of the DSP firmware

Entropy of GTW firmware – note spikes showing suspected key/signature material

Entropy of noboot.img showing high spike – likely public key for checking signatures

During previous ECU updates, research found only CRC32 checks were performed. This made the process vulnerable because it allowed malicious firmware to be loaded onto the gateway and then onto other ECUs.

It appears that some issues still persist.

There is no integrity protection or signature for the SD card. An attacker could modify the contents, which could have a security implication, for example time-of-check to time-of-use (TOCTOU) vulnerabilities, where the firmware signature is verified, an attacker modifies the firmware, and it is loaded onto an ECU. This could be difficult to exploit.

UDS Security Access is used to update the individual ECUs. Security Access is a simple challenge/response algorithm. The following occurs to enter the mode whereby certain operations can be carried out:

  • Gateway requests a seed from ECU
  • ECU sends seed
  • Gateway uses algorithm to convert seed into correct key
  • Key is sent back to ECU to enable secure operations
  • Firmware loaded onto ECU by gateway

To prevent replay attacks, the seed should be random and of an adequate length. On the Tesla, the ECUs responded with fixed seed values in several cases. Of note, this occurred with either the FPGA or the power management microcontroller – the devices in the instrument cluster.

Typically one or more of the following, the algorithm used to transform the seed into a key varies from ECU to ECU:

  • Bitwise XOR
  • Bitwise Shift
  • Mixing bits
  • AES Encryption (symmetric encryption, where key is known by both parties)
  • RSA Encryption (asymmetric encryption, where ECU knows only a public key and updater a private key)

Observation of seed/key pairs usually renders the first three methods easy to reverse engineer. The number of pairs required varies from just a few pairs up to tens or hundreds.

Because it isn’t possible to determine the key from encrypted data, AES encryption is generally secure from an attacker intercepting communication. However, there remains a risk that the key could be recovered directly from an endpoint – either the ECU or the device programming it.

Because most ECUs are microcontrollers with integrated flash, AES keys can be stored internally which prevents trivial readout. To obtain an AES key this way, an attacker would probably have to go to extreme lengths.

RSA encryption only places a public key on the ECUs. It would not be possible for an attacker to generate a seed/key pair without access to the private key, even if they recover this. This adds additional security to symmetric encryption. It seems to be a comparatively rare mechanism in ECUs.

The security of the programming device is tantamount with all of these methods. An attacker can recover the algorithm, AES key or RSA private key, if they can gain access to this, and thereby activate UDS on ECUs.

Various techniques have been used by traditional automotive diagnostic and programming tools to make themselves secure:

  • Restricting distribution of software to trusted parties (although this is now largely ineffective as copied software is spread through the Internet)
  • Restrictive licensing, including online activation and hardware dongles
  • Use of hardware dongles to perform seed/key transform
  • Remote generation of seed/key pairs using an online service

Thanks to these techniques, it is more difficulty to attack UDS Security Access seed/key algorithms.

But Tesla is different. Traditionally, a specific laptop or device – which can be tightly controlled – has been used to perform diagnostics and programming by a dealer or garage.

Tesla upgrades are performed remotely. The gateway must implement the means to perform UDS Secure Access on all the ECUs in the vehicle because the programming device must be implemented in the gateway itself.

This makes it easy for an attacker to get their hands on them, to recover and reverse engineer at their leisure. However, this could still be a very time-consuming process, especially given the large number of ECUs the vehicle has.

The overall process of UDS should not be considered secure from an active attacker on the CAN bus, even if the seed/key process is considered secure. There is nothing to prevent an attacker from interacting with the device once it has been unlocked by the gateway using UDS. This can allow them to execute code, read back firmware, and write their own firmware to the device.

Although the gateway checks the cryptographic signatures of the individual .hex files for the ECUs, there is scarce evidence to suggest that the ECUs perform signature checks on the firmware that is sent to them via UDS.

ECUs, especially the more basic ones, rarely do any firmware signature checking. As part of the firmware update process, it is common for only basic checks such as CRC or a simple module checksum to be performed.

Wi-Fi and Cellular Modem USB firmware updates

Connected over USB to the VCM in the CID, the Wi-Fi module and Cellular Modem also receive updates via this channel.

Wi-Fi module

A series of tools and scripts in /usr/local/bin updates the Parrot FC6050W Wi-Fi module.

If the firmware update is being carried out by the shell script method, the script new-pflasher is called, providing several arguments for a loader, installer, and finally application. The binary new-pflasher-core is then called by this scrip.

The pflasher-core binary is called directly from within the function do_upgrade_parrot if the firmware update is being carried out by the binary updater.

We did not find any Tesla specific functionality when we examined the firmware files located in /usr/deploy/. We could not find any generic firmware for the modules either.

The Parrot Wi-Fi module firmware files

Cellular Modem

The shell script /usr/local/bin/sierra-update is called, regardless of the mechanism used to update the modem. This calls a binary SwiFirmwareDownloadUMTS that sends firmware to the modem.

We found the firmware for the cellular modem in /usr/deploy/sierra/. These are two .cwe files

The modem firmware files

Like the Wi-Fi module, we could not find any signs that this firmware has any specific Tesla functionality.

Notes and Further Work

Interesting Findings

We found a number of other interesting points whilst investigating the firmware update mechanism.

Remote Feature Enable

In order to enable the autopilot, the shell script enable-autopilot-after-purchase.sh updates the gateway internal.dat.

We believe this indicates that functionality may be remotely enabled and disabled.

No range or battery information was contained in Internal.dat, so we have been unable to ascertain how Tesla remotely alter these.

The shell script to enable autopilot

Security Token Update

A security token – downloaded daily from Tesla’s servers, over the VPN – must be known in order to access diagnostics, login as root, or send commands between the CID and IC.

Curl command to obtain security token

The current security token is posted to the server to obtain the next, one. This prevents someone with valid VPN keys from obtaining tokens for any car.

Escalation Strategy

With names ranging from “INDIFFERENT” to “SUICIDE_BOMBER”, there is a list of escalation strategies in the updater binary, which appear to be strategies for retries of downloads and user prompts on the UI.

Escalation strategies

Heavy Use of Shell Scripts

There are 85 shell scripts implementing various functionality in the /usr/local/bin directory..

The CID still uses many of these are, although functionality has moved into binaries for some of them.

Some of the many shell scripts

With many of these scripts being heavily commented, you can get an interesting insight into how they function.

Further Work

We have only really seen a fraction of what the Tesla can do here. Our biggest obstacle is the lack of spare parts – we could do a lot more detailed reverse engineering if we had a spare CID.

There remain areas to investigate:

  • We have not explored much of the Qt binaries that drive the CID UI; they contain functionality for connecting out to servers, including the daily service menu PIN code algorithm.
  • It was not possible for us to determine how certain functionality (for example, the vehicle’s range) could be altered remotely by Tesla.
  • We did not find any evidence of stolen vehicle tracking, remote cut-out or eCall in any of the aspects of the system that we examined. We would be interested to know how this is handled.
  • There was no Autopilot module in the vehicle we tested, and there were scant references to it on the CID. The autopilot would probably employ additional security to protect significant intellectual property it would contain.

Read Part 1: analysing the hardware, complete with a 14 layer PCB in the CID

Reverse Engineering Tesla Hardware


How does the Tesla update its firmware? What did we find when reverse engineering the display and instrument cluster?

Here’s the result of a couple of weeks work, working on a real vehicle that (mostly) worked after we had finished.

Part 1: analysing the hardware, complete with a 14 layer PCB in the CID

Part 2: reversing the firmware update process & the importance of Suicide Bomber mode

We’re publishing now as the process has recently changed with the Model 3

Overview of the Tesla Hardware

Like many contemporary vehicles, the Tesla has been constructed with multiple segregated CAN buses connected via a CAN gateway. There is a powerful embedded computer with Internet connectivity on the other side of the gateway controlling firmware updates for all of its components.

What are the physical components of the Tesla?

  • CID (Central Information Display) – the large console at the centre of the dash
  • IC (Instrument Cluster)
  • Conventional CAN connected ECUs

Let’s take a look at the individual components

The highly integrated CID comprises:

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Gateway interface between VCM and the various CAN buses
Full-sized 4GByte SD card connected to firmware gateway
Nvidia VCM (Visual Computer Module); ARM-based single board computer, with integrated 2 GB RAM, 8 GB NAND flash, 64MB NOR flash, and various peripherals
Ethernet switch
16GByte microSD connected to VCM for mapping data
3G modem for cellular connectivity
Assorted other modules including FPGA for display glue logic


Most vehicles have separate units for IVI (in-vehicle infotainment), CAN gateway and TCU (telematics control unit), but the Tesla combines the central information into one single, large unit. On other cars, the IVI, CAN gateway and TCU are generally all produced by different manufacturers (e.g., a Clarion IVI, Bosch gateway and Ficosa TCU). The Tesla integrates these units for full control over implementation, which partly explains why changes can be made so quickly.

The CID and IC are connected by both Ethernet and CAN bus. The IC is quite basic, the only security relevant component being another Nvidia VCM. This differs from the one in the CID, and has 50% less RAM. The CAN connected ECUs are more generic in the rest of the vehicle and are generally microcontrollers with integrated flash, running bare-metal software or a RTOS (real-time operating system). They have been produced by various manufacturers – some similar or identical to those found in other vehicles, while others (e.g., the Body Control Module manufactured by Pektron) are custom-made.

CAN buses found in the Tesla:

1 – dedicated connection to diagnostic OBD-II port
2 – body – door, lights, mirrors
3 – powertrain – drive inverters, battery management system, charger, thermal controller
4 – body – climate control, seats
There is no ‘5’ – although the hardware is present on the CID it is not used.
6 – chassis – suspension, instrument cluster, stability controller, power steering


The Tesla also has a number of LIN buses.

CID Hardware Architecture

The CID is rather complicated. A 14-layer PCB unites several functional blocks.

This makes it tricky to reverse engineer, not least because of a lack of public domain information. Damage to the CID would make the vehicle inoperable.

We took the CID out of the Tesla to power it up and examine it.

Visual Compute Module

An NVidia VCM (Visual Compute Module) sits at the core of the CID. This is an ARM based single-board computer module that runs Linux – the operating system that drives most of the visible actions of the Tesla.

Nvidia VCM modules are used in both the CID and IC.

Audi, BMW and Lamborghini have all been associated with Nvidia VCMs. For example, we uncovered a similar module in an Audi Virtual Cockpit.

An Nvidia Tegra System-on-Chip (SoC) is used in the VCM. This has a multi-core ARM processor, GPU and various other audio and video accelerators. It is significantly more powerful than SoCs used in other IVIs that we have examined, which is probably due to the large CID display. The Tesla Autopilot (AP1 and AP2) uses single-board compute modules. These are very different to the VCMs in the CID and IC. This vehicle did not have a Tesla Autopilot module, so we could not test it. We did not find any significant reference to the autopilot in any code on the CID.

The VCM has no public datasheets, which is common in automotive electronics, and makes reverse engineering very difficult. This is particularly so when there is only a single unit available to test, and means that great care must be taken not to damage it. A similar VCM module is used in the “Jetson Pro Development Kit”:

Even without direct manuals for the VCM or Tegra SoC, development boards often contain schematics and pin-outs for supplied modules, and spares for destructive tests. This would be really helpful in reverse engineering VCMs in the Tesla. Unfortunately, the Jetson Pro Development Kit does not provide any public documentation. Although we tried to obtain a development kit from eBay, there were none available when this report was prepared.

However, a similar development board, the Jetson TK1, is readily available. This does not use a VCM module, but rather directly mounts a different Tegra SoC to the PCB. The documentation for this yielded a small amount of information about the Tegra SoC. You can obtain technical reference manuals for the Tegra 2, 3 and 4 SoC lines, but they don’t contain ball-maps or pin-outs, so are of limited use for reverse engineering.

To gain access to documentation and forums, a valid developer account was created for Nvidia.com, but we could only find one reference for VCMs or the Jetson Pro development kit. We wrote a forum post asking about documentation but got no response. We envisage that an NDA would have to be signed to gain access to anything significant but it is unlikely that we would be able to share any of the information with third parties.

The connector on the VCM is like the MXM, used for some graphics modules from laptops, which have a standardised pin-out. However, the pin-out for these modules did not resemble the VCM. We looked into other Tegra-based single-board computer modules but could not see any similarities. Different connectors, external memory and peripherals are used. We did not find anything of significance. Several news stories (including https://electrek.co/2017/09/26/tesla-intel-power-infotainment-system/) reported that Tesla were changing the Nvidia based platform to Intel. Apparently this new board is called “Gordon Lake”, and looks rather like the Nvidia VCM:

The connector seems to be identical, while the mounting arrangements look different, especially regarding use of a heat-spreader plate. As before, we were unable to obtain datasheets without entering an NDA.

To further reverse engineering, we took out VCMs from the CID and IC for inspection:

These are the major components seen on the VCM in the CID:

An unpopulated 8-way header, J1
An unpopulated footprint for LQFP100 package – the purpose of which was unclear
TI power management unit TPS658629I
Nvidia Tegra SoC T301QS-P-A3 – this part number, like many microcontrollers and SoCs for automotive applications, is not listed anywhere, and may be a proprietary Tesla part. One can assume that this is a Tegra 3 SoC.
SK Hynix 8GiByte eMMC NAND Flash H26M42003GMRA – the main persistent storage on the device
SK Hynix 4GiBit DDR3 SDRAM H5TQ4G83AFR – there are four, giving 2GiByte of RAM. This will be shared for general purpose use and graphics. There are four unpopulated footprints which could be used for further RAM.
SMSC USB to Ethernet controller LAN89530AM – for the Ethernet connection out to the switch
SMSC Automotive USB transceiver USB83340 – for USB connections out to the rest of the CID
Spansion 64Mibyte NOR Flash GL512S11DHA02 –storage for the kernel and bootloaders

The VCM in the IC is very similar:

An unpopulated 8-way header, J1
An unpopulated footprint for LQFP100 package
An unpopulated footprint for TSOP48 package (most likely parallel NAND flash as an alternative to eMMC)
TI power management unit TPS65829I
Nvidia Tegra SoC T20AGS-SH-A4 – a Tegra 2 not a Tegra 3 in the CID; this is probably because the screen is smaller and requires less power.
SK Hynix 4GiByte eMMC NAND Flash H26M31001FRP1 – 50% less than the CID
SK Hynix 1GiBit H5PS1G83KFR – there are eight, giving 1GiByte of RAM, 50% less than the CID
SMSC USB to Ethernet controller LAN89350AM
SMSC Automotive USB transceiver USB83340
Spansion 64MiByte NOR Flash GL512S11DHA02


We believe that the pin-outs of the two VCMs were the same – voltage supply and ground appeared to be on the same pins, which was confirmed with an oscilloscope. We did not want to direct test the VCMs from the Tesla due to risk of damaging or bricking the CID or IC. This could make the car unusable, and cost somewhere between £3,000 and £10,000 to have repaired by Tesla.

To this end, we obtained a third VCM from a second-hand IC. This was the same as the VCM in the IC from the test, except it had 50% less RAM. The IC itself was a different model. We conducted invasive testing:

Not much was gained from invasive reverse engineering.

The stage 1 and 2 bootloaders, kernel, and other boot related data are contained in the 64MB NOR flash and most of this is backed up in a primary/recovery mechanism to allow the device to boot into a recovery mode.

The remainder of the filesystem is in the 8GiByte NAND flash. Most files are stored in a compressed, read-only, file system (squashfs), with small portions stored in a read/write filesystem (ext4). This is common and allows (mostly) unchangeable files, for example system binaries, to take up a small amount of flash, with settings and logs stored uncompressed.

Ethernet Switch

A built-in Ethernet switch connects the VCM to the rest of the vehicle via a Marvell 88E6061. This five-port 10/100 switch supports VLANs. It is configured using SMI, a serial interface. The Ethernet switch is configured when the CID starts. A logic analyser could sniff the SMI commands. We could not ascertain whether they were sent by the VCM or the gateway processor. Traffic is segregated from the various components using several VLANs.

There is no security functionality associated with the SMI, for example integrity protection – it trusts all signals, meaning that communications can be tampered with or modified. VLAN configuration could be modified in this way, potentially creating new routes into the system. Next to the switch are 5 LEDs, indicating link/traffic on the Ethernet ports. LQFP packaging provides easy access to signals.


This uses a Freescale SPC5668GVMG, a PowerPC-based microcontroller with 2MB flash memory and 512KB of RAM. Full datasheets are available.

Here we show the gateway with CAN transceivers. Similar devices are often found in CAN gateways. The gateway is connected to the CAN buses and the Ethernet switch. We believe the firmware on the gateway is FreeRTOS, a light-weight real-time operating system (RTOS) with multiple automotive uses.

Cellular Modem

Sierra AirPrime AR8552 is a common choice. Mounted on a daughter board, it sits next to the GPS receiver module, a ublox LEA-6R-0-002, and an accelerometer:

Internally, the AR8552 uses a Qualcomm MDM6200 SoC. These generally run an embedded Linux distribution called Legato. A USB is used for the cellular modem and VCM to communicate with each other.

The VCM does not contain a SIM card, unlike previously documented US Tesla modems. It is mounted instead in a remote pod and a cable connects it to the CID, so the SIM card can be accessed and changed without removing the CID. This could be due to EU competition laws, to ensure that the Tesla can use multiple mobile networks:

In this case, the SIM was an O2 one. We could not tell whether the SIM came with the vehicle or if it had been replaced. The SIM contained no data of any interest, such as SMS messages. The modem worked with an EE SIM.

Most TCUs in vehicles do not allow user-accessible and swappable SIM. Embedded or inaccessible SIMS are becoming the norm. Despite further examination of the Tesla, we did not uncover any functionality for tracking or eCall running on the CID’s VCM. This suggests these safety and security features run directly on the cellular modem, as per TCUs in other vehicles.

Recovering firmware from a Sierra Wireless AR8522 module without causing damage is extremely difficult, being as it is a tightly packed BGA module with numerous BGA chips, all contained under a soldered-on shield

Wi-Fi Module

The CID employs a Parrot Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module, mounted face-down. We could not confirm the specific model because it could not be removed from the main board. A Parrot FC6050W has been revealed by previous CID teardowns. The VCM and Parrot module communicate via USB.

SD card storage

On top of the CID main board are two socketed SD cards. A slot in the top of the CID allows access to a 16GB microSD card which is connected to the VCM and has mapping data:

The CID has to be taken apart to access a 4GB normal SD card. It is connected to the gateway and used for staging files during the firmware update. Both were extended outside the CID during the reverse engineering so that they could be accessed with ease when the car was running.

No integrity protection or encryption was seen with either card.

What about other components?

Other components on the CID less relevant to security:

  • Analog Devices ADSP-21489 DSP chip, probably used for audio playback and recording. An LQFP package is connected to an external serial flash chip
  • Altera Cyclone IV EP4CE40F23A7N FPGA connected to two ISSI RAM chips and a serial flash chip for the bitsteam (essentially FPGA firmware). This probably allows the VCM to interface with the display and touch panel used for display “glue logic”.


We have not mentioned all the CID connectors here – only those we judged to be relevant to security.

External USB

There are two USB ports on the back of the CID. These seem to act in the same way; both accepting media devices and displaying them in the UI. We tried the USB peripherals, i.e., Ethernet adapters and keyboards:

  • As is common on Linux based IVIs, USB Ethernet adapters enumerated, but did not function – we could not see any TCP/IP traffic.
  • Keyboards enumerated but did not function

Internal USB

There is a single USB port on the CID main board connected to the VCM. Previous investigation (https://blog.lookout.com/hacking-a-tesla), discovered this could be used to gain access to a Tegra recovery mode (RCM). This had not changed; it cannot be disabled. This was still protected by security meaning that commands have to be signed before they are accepted.

The Fusée Gelée vulnerability was found in the RCM bootloader in 2018. Malicious USB packets could bypass security as a result. We confirmed with the researchers who discovered this vulnerability that it is likely to be present on the earlier Tegra SoCs used by VCMs in the Tesla. We decided not to try and exploit this vulnerability due to the risk of rendering the VCM inoperable.

Ethernet ports

On the CID, two Ethernet ports are exposed, using proprietary automotive connectors. Previously fully open, one is a dedicated diagnostic connector. This is now secured via a proprietary handshake and has no known vulnerabilities. A “seed” is sent from Tesla servers to and from the CID via VPN connection.

The CID and IC are linked by the other ethernet connector. An Ethernet switch could intercept this and sniff the traffic. Any vulnerabilities in this area have now been closed off. Where Tesla vehicles have autopilot, the diagnostic ethernet connector is repurposed, and has a diagnostic port.

Conventional diagnostic connectors

There are two more conventional diagnostic connectors. An OBD-II port provides access to CAN bus 1 and 6. There is a special diagnostic port for access to CAN bus 2, 3, 4 and 6, and the K-Line bus used uniquely for HVAC. No sign of segregation or access control was observed – if someone had access to this port they could sniff and send arbitrary CAN traffic.

JTAG headers

Various embedded devices can have firmware recovered and be attacked by JTAG – a debug protocol. JTAG functionality is present in multiple devices of the CID and IC. Other Tesla enthusiasts told us they have been locked. In terms of the physical JTAG connections, multiple 10pin headers have been fitted on both the CID and IC main boards. It looks like they may be JTAG connections because these are all near microcontrollers or memory devices:

Several methods are available to determine the pin-out:

  1. Brute-force JTAG testing (“JTAGulating”) – can produce false positives and damage the board
  2. Continuity tests to known JTAG pins on one of the devices are reliable if pins can be accessed and datasheets are available

The only package with accessible pins and JTAG is the Analog Device ADSP-21489 – the rest are BGA. The JTAG connector pin-out could be determined because the datasheet and pinout were available. We used social media to identify and order the specific type of connector. We made a cable and used a variety of JTAG adapters and a logic analyser to ascertain if any security had been enabled.

We tried JTAG commands but the VCM on the CID and IC did not respond, leading us to think that it is likely that access is prevented due to blown SoC fuses. Using the “censorship” functionality provided by the MPC56xx series, a JTAG ID elicited a response from the gateway processor. This uses 64bit password protection. We tried the default value of FEEDFACECAFEBEEF without success. We ruled out brute-forcing this; firmware could be obtained using other methods.

JTAG ID elicited a response from the ADSP-21489, but it seemed to be using 64bit password protection. This proprietary protection scheme requires a specific JTAG adapter. This would cost about £1,200 and probably merely confirm that access is not possible. We believe it would be unlikely to pose any immediate security risks.

JTAG Secure was blocking access to the Altera Cyclone IV FPGA. There are no known security issues. We did not perform checks against the Parrot Wi-Fi board, since no datasheets are available and there is a low security impact. We were pleased to see all JTAG access closed off since many systems allow access.

Read Part 2: reversing the firmware update process & the importance of Suicide Bomber mode

infosec writers

Retrieved title: InfoSecWriters.com, 3 item(s)
Risk Management: What is it, Why is it Important, and How to do it?

Contributed by Richard Parker
Risk Management is the process whereby an organization identifies the risk, makes an assessment of the risk, identifies any mitigation that can be done to control the risk, and then decides to accept the risk or not to accept the risk. It applies to everything we do such as our personal lives, financial institutions, organizational operations, and information security. It is important in order to ensure the protection of the organization, it’s assets, and more specifically the organization’s Information Technology environment. There are a few variations of the risk management process which have been developed by both commercial and government organizations. All these processes may differ in implementation and labeling but have the same essential core steps. Those steps include identification of the risk, analysis and evaluation of the risk, mitigation of the risk, acceptance of the risk that can’t be mitigated, and monitoring. When done properly, risk management can greatly reduce the amount of risk taken on by an organization and the effects of the risk.
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Software Defined Environment: A View for the Security Practitioner

Contributed by Brian S. Rodgers
Exploring and understanding software defined services, hosted locally or off premise in a cloud provider’s data center, is a critical task demands the Information Security (InfoSec) practitioner’s attention. A strong password and sturdy door locks may have once been adequate to secure business computing environments. The modern enterprise network, assailed by threats from many different avenues, demands a more sophisticated approach to security. Many networks have evolved from simple flat networks to complex instantiations including virtual machines, multiple sites, and diversified strata of information; each demanding different protections. Much of the literature reviewed for this effort was focused on either vendor specific offerings or pure academic works. This work will provide a foundation of cloud and software defined services from a vendor neutral position that abstracts details. Further research is required to evolve the body of knowledge for the security implications from the software defined environment and its elastic characteristics.
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Social Engineering –The Human Side

Contributed by Mark Heckle
Social Engineering is one of the most widely used methods by cybercriminals to penetrate many networks across the globe. This type of attack is an easy way for criminals to infiltrate the defenses of any organization. Social Engineering attacks seem to be increasing every year due to the lack of awareness and knowledge of end-users. This sensitive data is collected through mobile devices, SMS, emails, or direct contact with a user. While prevention is almost impossible, this paper will examine the definition of social engineering, examples of Social Engineering, methods used by the attacker, the motivators of the attacker, and understanding why humans are easy prey to such attacks. By learning and understanding more about social engineering, it will go a long way in reducing the success of these penetration efforts.
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security week

Retrieved title: SecurityWeek RSS Feed, 3 item(s)
Israeli Army: Hamas Hackers Tried to ‘Seduce’ Soldiers

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military on Sunday said it has thwarted an attempt by the Hamas militant group to hack soldiers’ phones by posing as young, attractive women on social media, striking up friendships and persuading them into downloading malware.

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3 Employees Suspended in $4M Puerto Rico Online Scam

Puerto Rico’s government said Friday that it suspended three employees as federal agents investigate an online scam that attempted to steal more than $4 million from the U.S. territory.

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tech-wreck infosec blog

Retrieved title: Tech-Wreck InfoSec Blog, 3 item(s)
Shodan Pentesting Guide


Lynis – Open Source Security Auditing & Pentesting Tool – A Detailed Explanation


How to use KMS and IAM to enable independent security controls for encrypted data in S3



Retrieved title: xkcd.com, 3 item(s)
Further Research is Needed

Further research is needed to fully understand how we managed to do such a good job.


Blockchains are like grappling hooks, in that it's extremely cool when you encounter a problem for which they're the right solution, but it happens way too rarely in real life.

Leap Smearing

Some people suspect that it started as a "No, I didn't forget Valentine's Day" excuse that got out of hand.