At Defcon 2019, a security researcher Truman Kain has showcased a mod that turns a Tesla Model S into a “mobile surveillance station.” Kain has developed a simple DIY hardware that plugs into your Tesla’s USB port found on the dashboard.
When connected, it turns the car’s in-built cameras into a mobile spying tool that can detect faces and number plates of vehicles around it. Kain calls his invention the “Surveillance Detection Scout.”
The researcher leverages Tesla’s dash camera and the rearview camera that provides a 360-degree view for the electric car’s Autopilot and Sentry features. The tool tracks and stores number plates and faces.
If the tool sees repeated number plates and faces around the vehicle, it puts an alert on the dashboard of Tesla and the user’s mobile phone. An open-source image recognition tool is deployed for the task.
As intrusive as it sounds, the creator’s intention is to alert the owner if someone is trying to break into the car or preparing to steal the car.
Kain says that he can further advance the functionality of the tool to collect data from multiple such devices fitted in different Teslas. This will create a powerful surveillance network similar to what is offered by commercial automatic license plate reader systems.
Kain realizes how his system can be tweaked and used for spying on unsuspected people. However, his demonstration exhibits the data collection done by electric vehicles and how such data can be turned into a monstrous surveillance system.