A young hacker who made global headlines by exposing security flaws at Tesla is to be a keynote speaker at Scotland’s annual tech industry meetup.

David Colombo, 21, remotely accessed the systems of 25 Teslas last year in an embarrassing security revelation for the automaker.

He was performing a security audit for a French company when he noticed a third-party software backdoor on the firm’s network that exposed all the data about the chief technology officer’s Tesla Inc. vehicle.

The data included a full history of where the car had been driven and its precise location at that moment. Further investigation revealed he could push commands to vehicles, allowing him to remotely open and close doors and windows, turn up the music and disable security features.

Colombo, from Germany, will speak at ScotSoft at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) on Thursday 28th September. His keynote will address the global cyber skills shortage, demonstrate critical vulnerabilities in our evolving smart infrastructure, and look ahead to imminent cybersecurity challenges.

David Colombo, founder and CEO of Colombo Technology, said: “In the rapidly-evolving world of cybersecurity, it’s crucial to continue advancing our understanding and techniques while upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct and legality. I’m looking forward to sharing my perspectives with this year’s ScotSoft delegates.” 

Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS, added: “Each year we seek to build on previous successes at ScotSoft. This year’s conference will be one of the most exciting yet, first with our new CPD accreditation and now with another noteworthy keynote speaker. 

“David is a really inspiring young leader, both for burgeoning new talent as well as for longstanding industry experts, and his talk is sure to provide insights that will linger in the minds of this year’s delegates.” 

David started coding at 10 years old and developed an interest in cybersecurity at the age of 13. He left school not long after, at 15, after gaining special permission from the German Chamber of Commerce and went on to launch his cybersecurity company, Colombo Technology, at age 17.

In line with his enthusiasm for encouraging young talent into the industry, he will spend the days leading up to ScotSoft participating in a number of activities to engage with young talent. This includes visiting Edinburgh Napier University to talk to students about his experiences as an ethical hacker, and to share insight into the upcoming cyber threats society faces.

He said: “Connecting with other young tech talent is a strong passion of mine and I am looking forward to meeting some of Scotland’s students to share my own story and what I’ve learned so far with them. I am very grateful to ScotlandIS for enabling these opportunities during my visit to Scotland, out of their clear commitment to supporting young people into an exciting tech career.” 

Colombo has become a well-known figure in the international tech industry after publishing globally recognised security research, known as the “Tesla Hack”, which explores the risks and flaws of the security technology being adopted by the automotive industry. As well as running his company, David consults with CISOs, startups, and governments.