Plug-N-Pwned: Comprehensive Vulnerability Analysis of OBD-II Dongles as A New Over-the-Air Attack Surface in Automotive IoT


Haohuang Wen, Ohio State University; Qi Alfred Chen, University of California, Irvine; Zhiqiang Lin, Ohio State University


With the growing trend of the Internet of Things, a large number of wireless OBD-II dongles are developed, which can be simply plugged into vehicles to enable remote functions such as sophisticated vehicle control and status monitoring. However, since these dongles are directly connected with in-vehicle networks, they may open a new over-the-air attack surface for vehicles. In this paper, we conduct the first comprehensive security analysis on all wireless OBD-II dongles available on Amazon in the US in February 2019, which were 77 in total. To systematically perform the analysis, we design and implement an automated tool DongleScope that dynamically tests these dongles from all possible attack stages on a real automobile. With DongleScope, we have identified 5 different types of vulnerabilities, with 4 being newly discovered. Our results reveal that each of the 77 dongles exposes at least two types of these vulnerabilities, which indicates a widespread vulnerability exposure among wireless OBD-II dongles on the market today. To demonstrate the severity, we further construct 4 classes of concrete attacks with a variety of practical implications such as privacy leakage, property theft, and even safety threat. We also discuss the root causes and feasible countermeasures, and have made corresponding responsible disclosure.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {247700,
author = {Haohuang Wen and Qi Alfred Chen and Zhiqiang Lin},
title = {Plug-N-Pwned: Comprehensive Vulnerability Analysis of OBD-II Dongles as A New Over-the-Air Attack Surface in Automotive IoT},
booktitle = {29th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 20)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-17-5},
pages = {949--965},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,

Presentation Video