Another security nightmare: rental cars

I never considered renting a car to be a particular security risk, but in this age of electronic everything, that’s changing.  The Federal Trade Commission warns:

When I rent a car, it’s fun to get all the bells and whistles – like navigation, hands-free calls and texts, streaming music and even web browsing. But did you know that cars with these features might keep your personal information, long after you’ve returned your rental car? Here are some things to keep in mind when renting a connected car.

What happens when you rent a connected car? When you use the car’s infotainment system, it may store personal information. It may keep locations you entered in GPS or visited when travelling in the rental car – like where you work or live.

If you connect a mobile device, the car may also keep your mobile phone number, call and message logs, or even contacts and text messages. Unless you delete that data before you return the car, other people may view it, including future renters and rental car employees or even hackers.

There’s more at the link, including helpful hints on how to minimize your risk factors.

Seems to me that the so-called ‘Internet of things‘ is more trouble than it’s worth . . . but then, I’m a dinosaur.  I actually believe in that old-fashioned value called ‘privacy‘.  What do I know?



  1. State of Florida years ago had an epidemic of carjackings.
    Then they instituted ccw and they decreased dramantically.
    Except for rental cars from airports.
    The jackers knew that folks in rentals who had flown in to town most likely were unarmed.
    So the rental agencies had to remove all indications that their cars were rentals to combat the situation.

  2. It's part of my checklist to clear all destinations from the GPS, and I never connect my phone to a vehicle other than my own…

  3. Yup. I just sold a GPS-equipped car to a wholesaler and the last thing I did in their parking lot was a second wipe of all my user data. I did a full reset in my driveway first to verify it was clean, and the 2nd was to clean the last bits that might have been recorded on the final trip.

    +1 to Uncle Lar's story, it is a great example of how CCW works in the real world..

  4. I never use a rental car's GPS – newer cars have more than enough power plugs that I can easily just take my own, from the dashboard of my car. That technique also give me the opportunity to enter known addresses like hotels, restaurants, points of interest, etc.into the GPS before I leave home rather than in the airrport parking lot.

    FYI, if your GPS has a "Home" location to be set, never use your actual home for that – pick a shopping center location a mile or two away. Pressing "home" will direct you close enough to find your way to your house. Thieves have learned they can break into your car – and now can easily do it electronically because car manufacturers omitted security in car systems – while it's at a mall (or the beach, pool, etc.), steal your garage door opener and your GPS, press "Home" and go to your house to clean you out while you're in the mall parking lot waiting for police to take a theft report. Might even be worse if you've got kids watching Saturday morning cartoons at home and think it's Mom or Dad coming back from shopping.

    I've often wondered what would happen if, while driving a rental car, I was stopped by police who felt it necessary to have a drug dog sniff it and discovered that drug residue was left in the rental by a previous user. Would they believe me when i told them "I have no idea how that got there – it's a rental" ?

  5. Depending on the GPS, the information can still be retrieved even if the destinations are deleted. Some gps devices track and log your travels, even if you're not using it for directions, it's enough that the device is on. (It's been used by police here to find out the movements of a suspect.) And even if you delete the destinations it's like any other harddrive, you can restore the deleted files with the right software.

  6. Don't forget that some rental cars have hidden monitoring and logging devices; if you read the fine print on rental contracts, car rental companies reserve the right to operate them on without telling you and reserve the right to collect data and share it with law enforcement or use it against you – for example, they can charge you penalties if you take it somewhere you aren't supposed to such as another state or country.
    Assume until you can prove otherwise that your movements are tracked in a rental car or truck, and if you bought a used car with a loan from the dealer, there is a good chance they are also tracking you.

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