Using password attacks to gain SSH access to car infotainment systems


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In the evolving landscape of automotive technology, in-car infotainment systems have become sophisticated computing platforms. However, with sophistication comes vulnerability, particularly to cyber attacks. Among these, SSH password attacks pose a significant threat. This blog explores the nature of these attacks, with a focus on dictionary password attacks.


Before we get into the specifics of SSH password attacks, make sure you have the following tools ready:

Tool Installation

  1. If you are using a different Linux distribution, you can install the necessary tools using the apt command:
sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get upgrade 
sudo apt-get install net-tools nmap hydra 

Methodology for Identifying and Mitigating SSH Password Attacks

1. Identify Your IP

Find your current IP address:


2. Locate the Infotainment System

Use nmap to scan the network and find the infotainment system:

sudo nmap <ip-range> -O -T4 

3. Conduct a Detailed Port and Service Scan

Once you've located the infotainment system, identify the SSH port and service details:

sudo nmap <target> -sV -T4

4. Execute a Dictionary Password Attack

Launch a password attack using a list of usernames and passwords against the target host using hydra:

hydra -L userlist.txt -P passwordlist.txt ssh://<target> -t 10
  1. The command uses a list of usernames and passwords to perform a dictionary attack against the host, -t 20 will run twenty tasks in parallel per target.
  2. After a period of time, the command will show the number of successful logins found.

    Different Types of Password Attacks

While our focus is on dictionary attacks, it's important to understand the landscape of password-based attacks.:

  • Brute Force Attacks: Attempting all possible password combinations.
  • Phishing Attacks: Deceiving users into revealing their passwords.
  • Credential Stuffing: Use of previously compromised username and password pairs across multiple accounts.
  • Rainbow Table Attacks: Use pre-computed tables of hash values to crack passwords.

Dictionary attacks are particularly effective against weak passwords and systems without rate limiting or account lockout policies.

Security Implications and Limitations

It's important to realise that exploiting vulnerabilities in car infotainment systems through SSH password attacks does not necessarily give control over the entire vehicle. These systems are designed with isolation in mind, which limits the scope of potential exploits. However, unauthorised access can compromise personal data and, in some cases, manipulate certain functions of the car.


Understanding and mitigating SSH password attacks against in-car infotainment systems is critical to protecting against unauthorised access and potential data breaches. While the risk of complete vehicle control via these attacks is limited by design, the security of personal information and system integrity remains a critical concern. By using strong, unpredictable passwords and understanding the nature of these attacks, users and manufacturers can significantly reduce vulnerabilities.

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