Rental cars come with risks you may not be aware of

During the holiday season, many travelers rely on rental cars to reach their destinations. Many of today’s cars are designed to make hands-free calls, stream music, and even access the Internet – but one has to connect to an infotainment system first.

In order to do this, the infotainment system may store personal information kept on a driver’s phone, says the American Automobile Association (AAA).

“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,” Lori Weaver Hawkins, Blue Grass AAA, said ina statement. “It is possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to things like home address and the code for your garage door opener.”

Know your risks

There are currently 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 an infotainment system may store.

Potentially stored information:

  • Home address, work address, and other saved or frequently used GPS locations
  • Home phone number
  • Call and message logs
  • Personal contacts
  • Garage opener programming

Reducing your risks

To avoid a data breach of any kind, there are a number of steps drivers can take.

  1. 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.
  2. Use your phone’s GPS without syncing up with the rental car.
  3. 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 access to your music library, not your personal contacts or other data.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.