How a Tesla write-off from the US landed in Ukraine – with the previous owner still logged in

In a lesson of vehicle data privacy, an American journalists’ former Tesla started using his online accounts – from nearly 8000 kilometres overseas and almost a year later

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A written-off Tesla Model X from the United States came back online and started playing Drake songs in Ukraine – almost a year later.


  • Model X written-off in the USA comes back online in Ukraine
  • A lesson resetting ‘computers on wheels’ when needed
  • Data privacy an increasing concern as cars become more software-driven

That’s the peculiar story of CNBC [↗] executive editor Jay Yarow, who recently started receiving notifications via the Tesla smartphone app that his crashed electric SUV ended up with new owners in southern Ukraine using his still signed-in Spotify account.

After the vehicle was written off and placed at a salvage yard in New Jersey late last year, CNBC found the Model X listed for sale on the online auction site Copart.

The retailer operates in 11 countries. While vehicles with a ‘salvage title’ cannot be legally driven in the US, some countries are less stringent.

Yarrow didn’t attempt to disconnect the car from his Tesla account immediately after the crash, but when contacted, the carmaker instructed him to deregister his account profile remotely via the mobile app.

Automotive security firm Cains Labs’s chief technical officer, Ken Tindell, told CNBC [↗] that disconnecting a user’s account from a formerly-owned vehicle can help stop others using logged-in apps.

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However, data such as synced contact lists and driving history, could still be extracted from the vehicle’s electronics.

Tindell said car manufacturers still generally don’t offer a remote 'hard reset' function to wipe all data, as featured on encrypted Apple laptops.

As electric vehicles continue to rise in popularity, automakers are attempting to become ‘software-driven’ companies instead.

Over-the-air updatable systems and subscription services can control hardware, such as the electric drive unit’s power and efficiency, LED lighting patterns, and access to heated seats functionality.

Henry Man


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