How to protect your personal info when you have a smartphone and smart car

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
How to protect your personal info when you have a smart car
Syncing your smartphone to your car through Bluetooth or a USB cord carries the risk of compromising your personal information.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Smart technology in cars can provide great safety benefits, but the ABC 7 I-Team found that syncing a smartphone to your vehicle also comes with the risk of compromising personal information.

Here's how you can protect yourself while still using your smart car features.

Upon first using the car's WiFi, change the password from the manufacturer's default code to a new one, advised fraud expert and Governor's State University professor Bill Kresse, also known as "Professor Fraud." Make sure to use a strong Wi-Fi password with characters only you would remember in order to make it more difficult for criminals to hack into information on your devices.

Drivers should also avoid syncing their contacts and texts to the vehicle's Bluetooth feature, Kresse said. This is also critical when using a rental car.

"I think a lot of people have information in there, such as cell phone numbers for their children, that they don't want to get out there to the public," Kresse said. "So keep it off. If you need to make a phone call, pull over to the side and make the phone call then."

Kresse and security experts at Digi International said keeping private information off your car will also keep such details safe from potential criminals who try to break in.

"In the end, the connected car is just like a regular big computer," said Harald Remmert, CTO of Cellular Solutions at Digi International. "So hackers can get access to the vehicle through the vehicle's diagnostic port and they can hack into the car's mobile WiFi hotspot."

USB ports in your car can also be an entryway for criminals to access stored information, according to Kresse. In order to prevent access, Kresse recommends purchasing a USB lock online.

"Somebody who has possession of your vehicle, such as a valet parker, car washer, whoever, can take some malware, download it into your system and can use it to draw information out of your system," Kresse said.

If you use Apple CarPlay, experts said private information should disappear when the phone is unplugged or remotely disconnected from the car, therefore keeping your contacts, texts and other information safe.