Use a rental car for business or pleasure, and you’ll enjoy the expected conveniences of modern personal transportation: automatic headlamps, power accessories, a navigation system and connectivity. The last feature, though, should never be taken for granted: When you link your mobile device, your information may be stored and read by others long after you have returned the vehicle. When traveling for business and working from the road, this is a valid concern.
Connect your smartphone with Bluetooth or to a USB port and your rental car will begin reading and storing your information. Text messages, your phone call logs, and even the places you have visited may be viewed by others unless you delete that information before returning your car. Even then, there is a risk that certain facts may stay behind. Keep your information protected in your rental car with these simple precautions:
- Avoid using Bluetooth. Long before other data services emerged, Bluetooth became the de facto way for people to connect their phones with their cars. Bluetooth streaming enables ease of syncing by using radio waves to achieve that connection. The trouble is, Bluetooth transfers your phonebook data and calling lists to the car, information that is subject to hacking.
- Restrict your permissions. If the rental car’s infotainment system provides connectivity and allows you to choose your permissions, then do so. Restrict the system’s access to certain information — such as your music files — which effectively forbids access to your other files. Once you open the door for the infotainment system to read anything on your smartphone, you are vulnerable to a security breach.
- Delete your personal information. If you must connect with the rental car, be sure to delete your personal information before returning it. Locate the car’s Bluetooth setup menu and remove your phone from the paired phone’s list. Ensure the call logs are removed too. You can also find the “clear private data” command or activate the factory reset button to remove that information.
- Utilize Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Depending on the type of phone you own, you may be able to connect through Apple Car Play or Android Auto. If your rental car is compatible with either, then operate it without worry that your data can be read by others. Both systems are encrypted, and there is no risk of data exposure there.
- Don’t plug into the USB port. Your data can be harvested even if you avoid Bluetooth: Connecting your smartphone via the USB port to charge your phone or use the infotainment system still puts you at risk (and may give you even less control as you would have with Bluetooth). Avoid connecting to the port at all and instead use your portable charger. A personal power source ensures that no data is exposed to hackers. You can also employ your smartphone’s navigation app to help direct you to wherever you want to go instead of connecting to the car’s GPS system.
Traveling for work or pleasure and renting a connected car can be a nice perk, with benefits that include convenience and efficiency. But there are many risks to consider. Take these precautions and make sure that convenience is not undone by security breaches.