The Dangers of Syncing Your Phone to your Vehicle
AAA Urges Motorists to Protect Critical, Personal Information
If you wouldn’t leave critical personal information sitting on a park bench, you should think twice before syncing your phone with your car. That’s the message from AAA, alerting motorists to the vulnerability of any information stored on their phones, which is often then stored on the vehicle’s infotainment system.
“Would you leave your Social Security card sitting out on your dashboard? Would you leave your unlocked smartphone behind in a rental vehicle? You should think about the syncing of your phone in the same terms”, says Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford.
Syncing your phone to your vehicle’s infotainment system is a wonderful convenience that allows drivers to make hands-free calls and stream music. But, in order to do this, the infotainment system may store personal information kept on the phone.
If you sell or trade in your car, sync your phone to a rental car, or hand your keys to a valet, you open yourself up to having your personal information stolen. It is possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to your home address and access your garage door opener.
“This goes beyond identity theft into the realm of personal safety,” Parmenter says. “Every car system is different, and prior to syncing a device, motorists need to be aware of the risks.”
Currently there are no industry or government standards for vehicle infotainment systems, but here are some general guidelines:
Know the type of information that your infotainment system may be storing:
- 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
Know what you can do to protect your information:
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 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.
Before handing your keys over to a valet, check to see if your car has a Valet Mode you can set the infotainment system to that will protect your sensitive data.
When renting a car, if you’re plugging your phone in to charge it, use the cigarette lighter adapter port (if you have the cable for it) instead of the USB, because that port doesn’t access your information. Use your phone’s GPS without syncing up with the rental car.
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—or rental car—with the same discretion you give to your checkbook, cell phone, and birth certificate.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Connecticut. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.