Why Drivers Should Never Leave Their Data in a Car

Have you ever connected your smartphone to your car? And what about hire cars? Did you remember to  unpair your smartphone and wipe your data before returning the hire car? 


If you answered no to the last question, you are not alone.


One of the biggest connected car security issues is what you might predict: driver  ignorance around the potential scale of automotive security threats. Here are some stats, collected by Which? From the 14,000 surveyed motorists:

  • 79% didn’t try to do a factory reset or remove their data from the vehicle
  • 58% didn’t try to manually remove the data
  • 51% didn’t unsync or “forget” any Bluetooth-connected devices
  • 31% took no action at all to erase their data from the car

These numbers concern both rental car drivers and those who decided to sell their personal cars. Regardless of the situation, the driver should always remember  their connected car cybersecurity and take care of any private information they hand over.


The director of policy and research at IAM Roadsmart Neil Greig suggests you should not sync your device to a rental car as a way of avoiding automotive security threats. He says syncing only makes sense if you are going to use the car for a longer period. But you also need to remember to erase your data before parting with the vehicle. Otherwise, it’s just not worth the risk.


Automotive vulnerability is quite disturbing, especially if you think about how much data we share with the vehicle when syncing it with a smartphone or tablet.


The car can have access to:

  • Music playlists
  • Contact lists
  • Email and other accounts
  • Messages and notifications
  • Addresses
  • Location information from the GPS sensors

Of course, this list depends on how many privileges a user grants to a car, but to make the ride comfortable – which in fact makes syncing useful – the car needs many crucial permissions, such as access to your contacts and addresses. That’s why a driver could neglect the connected car’s risk and allow access to this personal information without a second thought.


Some cars feature advanced options like starting or stopping the engine, following saved locations, locking, and unlocking the doors, all by using the dedicated app. That means the next car owner would have access to the previous owner’s sensitive information. This data, while in the wrong hands, could cause much trouble to the owner if it fell into the wrong hands.


The bottom line? Nobody says it better than Which? editor Harry Rose.


“You should treat connected cars the same way as you treat smartphones, tablets, or computers.”


He also emphasized how car manufacturers should put more effort in making drivers understand the privacy risks.


And here’s the golden rule we suggest.  


Think twice before allowing connected devices access to your data. If you have to give your vehicle access, then always remember to do a factory reset before handing over any smart device with your sensitive information. 


For any more information about staying safe while connecting your devices online, then check out Clario’s blog.

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