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Tesla cars vulnerable to hackers, says China’s Qihoo

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Tesla’s growing fame in China has attracted attention not just from the public, but also possibly from hackers. Or so says a Chinese company willing to offer a pile of cash to anyone who can remotely access some of the vehicle’s functions.

Qihoo 360 Technology QIHU -0.37% , a leading Internet-security provider in China, claimed they had found a major software defect in Tesla Motors Inc.’s TSLA +0.70%  Model S and launched a “Cracking Tesla” contest on Wednesday, offering $10,000 to any participant able to break into a Tesla vehicle’s computer system.

“After conducting a series of security tests, we found the Tesla car can be remotely unlocked, the horn honked, the lights flashed, or the sun roof opened while it’s running,” Qihoo 360 Technology said Tuesday on its official microblogging Weibo account.

“Beware, Tesla drivers, you might end up as wet as a drowned rat, when on a rainy day your sun roof suddenly opens,” it said.

According to its latest Weibo post, the company kicked off the “Cracking Tesla” contest in tandem with the 2014 SyScan360 information-security conference.

“The sign-up for the contest has begun. All the players just can’t wait! “ the SyScan360 organizers said on Weibo late Wednesday morning.

The reaction from Tesla Motors was mixed. On the one hand, the auto maker said in a statement that they “encourage” security-research teams to “take a responsible attitude and participate in the competition,” as “we believe the activity helps to discover potential flaws.”

However, “any attempt to control our network or server in any form would be intolerable,” the company said in the statement published Tuesday on the website of the state-run China News Agency.

Still, if the contest does turn up a vulnerability, “we would investigate ... and take prompt action to respond and restore” the integrity of the system, Tesla said.