Protecting your data in a connected car

We are often wary of our phones or computers getting hacked, but we often overlook a much less obvious –but potentially far more dangerous – piece of tech falling into hackers’ hands. Our cars are becoming just as connected as other technologies in our lives, so protecting data here is just as important.

Connected cars have a crazy amount of users’ data, like what’s transferred over Bluetooth from your phone, location, and more.

According to, a connected car has the ability to gather data and communicate it. People connect to the internet through their cars for a variety of reasons, including safety, information, and entertainment. It all sounded exciting and convenient, until white hat hackers (hackers who break into protected systems in order to point out weaknesses and improve security) found they could hack into connected cars.

When white hat hackers accessed a connected vehicle, they didn’t only get data. They had the ability to manipulate what the car was doing – adjust the volume, open the trunk, and even control the speed and steering. Car manufacturers such as Jeep and Tesla have reported these kinds of hacks in recent years.

Car manufacturers are actively working with white hat hackers to fix these problems, and the average hacker doesn’t have the level of skill needed to hack a car in this way. But what is more accessible is your data. Connected cars have a crazy amount of users’ data, like what’s transferred over Bluetooth, location, and more.

Here are steps you can take to protect your connected car’s data:

  1. Read your owner’s manual. Make sure you understand what data is being collected, and ask questions when you’re purchasing from a dealer.
  2. Be mindful of what you plug into the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) port, as this is the nervous system of your vehicle. You can purchase an OBD lock to prevent people from accessing it.
  3. When you install a new app, watch for end-user license agreements and acknowledgment screens. These could include portions of the privacy policy.
  4. Don’t assume apps will default to the highest security settings. The main function of connected devices is to gather information and connect to other devices. With that in mind, use the highest privacy settings whenever possible.
  5. Disable GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi when not in use.
  6. Make your passwords/passcodes strong, and keep them secure.
  7. Update apps and devices when new versions are available.
  8. Wipe your data before you sell a car.

And beyond the car sitting in your driveway or garage, don’t forget the dangers of rental cars. If you connect your phone to a rental vehicle, it’s extra important to take safeguards.

Don’t treat your car as a dumb machine. Nowadays, our vehicles hold just as much personal data as our other devices, but fewer people are aware of the potential risks.

Written by Vickie Lubner-Webb and Mary Mulcahy

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