The Stories Your Cars Can Tell

We got two cars in the same week in the past month. One was a brand-new Honda CR-V, and the other 2010 Corvette, and both have Bluetooth technology. The Bluetooth was able to tell me more about both cars than anyone might think of. And therein lies a cautionary tale for you, which can apply to any car with Bluetooth that you may drive.

We’ve noted before that Bluetooth settings in car systems can linger for the life of the vehicle, and we’ve cautioned you to make sure you erase all your settings before you turn in a car. Otherwise, somebody can get your phonebook, text messages and anything else that may have come from your phone to the Bluetooth. We saw two examples with our new cars.

The first one was with our new CR-V, which we got because the lease on our Acura was up and because we wanted to try a car with a hybrid system. Apparently, hybrid CR-Vs are not ubiquitous, and our car dealer had to do a swap. We got a “brand spanking new” car with 170 miles on it, which is really not a problem. But whoever drove the car put their own phone into the Bluetooth settings into the car and never erased them. The driver’s cell phone info was still in the car when I got it.

This time, it was not a problem. I have no interest or need for that data, and I simply erased it all by going back to the factory settings. I set my old car back to the factory settings before I turned it in, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no way that car will compromise my security. I didn’t want to take the chance of being as lucky as the former owners of my new (for me) Corvette.

I bought the car through Carvana, and they delivered it on a flatbed truck – just like in the TV ads. Yes, it’s my midlife crisis car; I’ve always wanted a sports car, and I am enjoying it. But it is a car from another technology and digital technology era, and there was a Bluetooth issue that I didn’t realize until I tried to call home.

When I told the car to call home, it called a number that was not my home. It called a number in Warrenton, VA. When the people there answered the call, I asked them if they once had a 2010 blue Corvette that they sold to Carvana? They said yes, so I identified myself as the new owner.

Before you start thinking otherwise, we had a very nice call. Although I had learned a lot about the car from the Carfax report, they told me how much they had loved the car, how they kept it garaged and how much they hated to sell it because they just couldn’t keep it anymore. We talked about caring for the car and if we ever drive near Warrenton to make sure we stop by for a visit.

They also said they thought they had erased everything in the Bluetooth history, and they were relieved that nothing they left in the car will ever come back to haunt them. But none of us can ever be that lucky. If you’re turning in a car in which you used Bluetooth, you need to wipe the history clean – especially with a rental car.

Why is that important? Here’s just one example. If you called ahead to get a hotel room and need to give your credit card info over the phone, the phone number for the reservation center is there. It’s really easy for whoever gets that phone number to call the same reservation center and make up a story about wanting to confirm a charge on a specific credit card – and entice the call center person to read back the entire number.

If you’re not sure how to get a Bluetooth system back to its factory setting, call us – 973-433-6676 – to walk you through the process. Or, if you have time or are in a different time zone with a huge difference in time, send us an email, and we’ll respond back either with the directions for your car’s system or general steps that are likely to get the job done. You don’t want your car telling stories about you behind your back.

‘Authentically’ Constant Contact

It seems like two of today’s e-marketing dilemmas are getting through spam filters and making it easy for people to respond directly back to you. Constant Contact, which we and several clients use, has always excelled at solving the first problem – and now they’ve solved the second one.

For those with older Constant Contact accounts, there was no way to send a message through your own domain name. Even though, for example, you knew you were getting the email with this newsletter from Sterling Rose, the domain that sent it was from Constant Contact. Because of that, you couldn’t reply directly, and we were among the many Constant Contact users who felt that clients and customers who felt we were losing some contact.

Now, you can use an email authentication key to build your reputation as a safe sender and keep your emails out of the spam folder. The key verifies your outbound email to an internet service provider (ISP) that the message actually came from your organization, or that it was sent on your behalf from an authorized third-party, like Constant Contact. It receives basic authentication, but whether you have your own domain or are using an email address from a free webmail provider, like Gmail or Yahoo, you can choose to add an extra layer of authentication to improve your email deliverability.

Authentication standards were originally developed to reduce spoofing, phishing and spamming schemes involving well-known brands. But as we all have learned, brands big and small are now targets and should be employing some level of authentication to protect themselves. The less your emails can be confused as spam, the more likely an ISP will route your emails into your contacts’ inboxes.

If you have your own domain and are hosting your website through an online web hosting platform, you have three authentication options:

  • DKIM Self-Publish for Authentication – DKIM, which stands for Domain Key Identified Mail, is the highest level of authentication offered by Constant Contact and is the only way for a domain to be aligned with DMARC, which is a policy recognized in the email world. Constant Contact generates the public/private key pair and provides you with the public key while they sign all of your email with the private key.
  • Enable Constant Contact Authentication – If you’re not ready to do authentication with your own domain but want to separate yourself from their shared pool of customers, you can enable Constant Contact authentication to add as a sub-domain to your existing email address. They take care of the authentication records for you, and you can still customize the sender header information that displays when your recipients open your email.
  • Do Nothing – All email sent through Constant Contact receives some form of authentication and you don’t have to do anything extra to receive this service. You get basic authentication to make sure your emails get delivered to your contacts’ inbox, but your online domain reputation is shared in a pool with all other Constant Contact customers.

If you send email from multiple locations, such as Constant Contact, Google apps, and a CRM tool, each location signs with a different private DKIM key. You will have multiple public keys on your DNS to correspond to the private keys. DKIM keys are differentiated by the selector. Constant Contact uses numbers for the selector, but Google, for example, uses letters for the selector instead.

It’s a good idea to test your authentication out before you send out an email campaign because it may take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days for the newly published authentication records to propagate through the internet. Once you have a successful test send, you can start sending emails that help build your reputation.

We can help you with your email communications through Constant Contact by walking you through the setup process or doing the work for you, and we can provide the tests needed to verity the setup is good. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to answer your questions or set up an appointment to start your authentication process.