Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:59 pm

Just playing your favourite songs via your car’s infotainment system could make you vulnerable to information theft…

These days, we store so much information on our phones – from internet banking to crucial ID numbers, documents, photographs, and login details. Synching up to your car’s computer (or a rental vehicle) could lead to personal information being stolen.

So if you’re planning on renting a car for your family holiday this season, think twice about digital security!

“The stored information in mobile devices is vulnerable to theft. If you sync your mobile phone to a rental car, you open yourself up to having your personal information stolen,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, Blue Grass AAA. “It is possible for an unauthorised person to gain access to things like your home address and the code for your garage door opener.”

Even personal vehicles can put sensitive and personal information at risk of unauthorised access

If you trade in your car, sync your phone to a rental car, or hand your keys to a valet, your data could be accessed and even sold.

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“Drivers need to be prudent about their personal info; this goes beyond identity theft into the realm of personal safety,” warns Weaver Hawkins.  “Every car system is different, and prior to syncing a device to a vehicle, motorists need to be aware of the risks.”

Currently there are no industry or government standards for vehicle infotainment systems, but the first step to safeguarding your personal data is to know the type of information that your infotainment system may be storing, such as:

“Every car system is different, and prior to syncing a device to a vehicle, motorists need to be aware of the risks.”

  • Home address, work address, and other saved or frequently used GPS locations
  • Your home phone number
  • Your call and message logs
  • Personal contacts
  • Text messages
  • Garage opener programming

There are also a number of steps you can take to greatly reduce the chance of your data being accessed by an unauthorised user:

  • Purchase a phone charger for your phone that plugs into the cigarette lighter adapter port rather than the USB port. The lighter adapter port does not access your information.
  • Use your phone’s GPS without syncing up with the rental car.
  • Check your phone’s permissions to learn what information your car can access. When syncing your phone, if your infotainment system allows you to choose which types of information you share, restrict it to only what’s necessary. For instance, if you’re only syncing your phone to play music, the car only needs to access your music library, not your personal contacts or other data.
  • Before handing your keys over to a valet, check to see if your car’s infotainment system has a valet mode you can set that will protect your sensitive data.
  • Before trading in your car or returning a rental car, go to the settings menu on the car’s infotainment system to find a list of synced devices. When you find your devices, follow the prompts to delete them. If you can’t figure out how to do this, check the owner’s manual or an online tutorial.

Your personal information is as valuable as it is vulnerable

Treat the information stored in your car with the same discretion you give to your bank account, social security card, and birth certificate.


 

AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  For more information, visit www.aaa.com.