Fleet News

Cyber security: Is your car sharing your personal data?

By John Chuhan, chief risk officer, Alphabet

The web-enabled world in which we live today means we are constantly connected whether we like it or not – even while travelling.

This year the Government has invested £20 million in funding research into communications between connected vehicles and the world around them.

Such technology could be planning a journey to a business meeting with in-built navigation, taking a call via Bluetooth, streaming music or accessing emails through infotainment systems.

However, what is helping to save us time as we multi-task our way through the day could actually be a playground for cybercriminals or those who want to access our personal information.  

In an economy where car finance, leasing or even car sharing is often preferred to outright ownership, many of us are now familiar with handing our cars back at the end of their contract or lease, or even returning a rental car.

But most people aren’t aware that the data stored in our cars remains in the vehicle’s memory long after it is handed back, or that it is still accessible even when the car is switched off. 

Protecting your in-car data privacy is a simple matter of knowing how to clear personal data from a vehicle. Deleting call logs, phone books and addresses is a good place to start, as wireless connections store a lot of information generated by ‘paired phones’.

Clearing destinations and trip logs from an in-built satnav is key, as is removing sensitive stored locations such as home or business addresses. Uncoupling from the cloud will also shut down any links to social media networks and search engines previously accessed through the vehicle’s wi-fi. 

Protecting personal data is a vital concern for vehicle manufacturers who are constantly seeking ways to increase connectivity in line with consumer demand, while ensuring systems are robust enough to reduce hackability – both now and in the future.

Investing a small amount of time considering and clearing your in-car data and connected systems will minimise the risk of them being accessed without your knowledge, and ensure the new driver of the vehicle starts with a clean slate.

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