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Summer Safety for Your ID Data

Did you get a good rate on your car rental for this summer’s trip? The real bargain might go to whoever downloads your personal data from the electronic breadcrumbs you might leave behind. Taking the time to button down a few details can save you a lot of grief.

Let’s start with cleaning out that rental car. Rental companies always update their fleets, and they want you to feel as comfortable as you would feel in your own car. One of the features increasingly common at any price and size level is Bluetooth, which lets you use the car’s audio system for handling calls on your smartphone, streaming music and getting directions from any GPS system you want to use. Some cars include a USB connection so you can have all those features and charge your phone.

That’s a great convenience, but as we’ve noted many times before, convenience usually involves a tradeoff with security. Syndicated radio host and blogger Kim Komando of the Kim Komando Show, gets to the heart of the issue.

“When you connect your gadget to a car with Bluetooth, the car stores your phone number in order to make it easier to connect later,” she points out. “It also stores your call logs, which include any contacts you dialed. There’s just one problem: All of that information is saved inside the system and is just sitting around for the next renter to find.”

We’re sure there are some other tech-savvy people who could also see your data before the car goes back on the road. So, take some time to clean up your electronic breadcrumbs – and build that time into your schedule for returning your rental car.

Komando offers two suggestions.

“Simply go into the car’s settings (it will vary for every car make and model) and locate your smartphone from the list of previously paired Bluetooth gadgets,” she writes. “There should be an option to delete your phone. That should wipe the call logs and saved contacts. Better yet, look for an option to clear all user data or do a complete factory reset. Talk to the employees at the car rental place if you can’t find these options.”

To that, we would add that you should not leave your car until you take care of this – or be prepared to email the rental company’s customer service department right from the check-in line. You could also post to Facebook or tweet about the problem – right then and there. But you’re better off getting the data deleted.

If you used the car’s navigation system, go into its settings and clear your location history. You don’t want anybody knowing where you’ve been or where you live.

By the way, if you are selling or trading in your car and turning back a leased vehicle, you should follow all of the suggestions for rental cars.

Komando’s article also talks about how easy it is for someone to hack into a car’s computer system and some of the consequences. Again, for your own data security, she recommends using the cigarette lighter adapter to charge your phone instead of a USB connection in the car or bringing along your own third-party Bluetooth audio kit for hands-free use of your smartphone. She adds that systems are being developed to allow you to use your device without storing any information in the car.

We have some other tips to protect your data and your hardware:

  • Remember that your data is out there for anyone to see when you use a public, unsecured Wi-Fi network. It’s not a good network to use for accessing your bank, credit card company or institution that has sensitive data. A secured Wi-Fi network is better, and so is your cellular data network.
  • Whether traveling or in your office or home, we recommend using a surge protector while your computer is plugged into the socket. Summer is a notorious season for power surges when you have lightning and power interruptions, and they can damage your machine’s circuitry. If your computer is older, it’s more susceptible to possible damage.
  • When working from your computer’s regular location, we recommend using a battery back-up system that sits between your outlet and your equipment. In the event of a power outage – even a very brief outage can trigger a computer shutdown – you’ll be able to save your work and initiate proper shutdown procedures to protect your work and equipment. Most battery back-up systems have outlets for you to plug in your computer, your gateway/router, printer and other similar devices.

If you have any questions at all about automotive systems or protecting your equipment during the summer, we’re happy to answer them or help you with installing or configuring any products. Contact us at 973-433-6676 or email us.