Tech Beat by Namecheap – 18 August 2023
Modern vehicles are now sophisticated data collectors, silently gathering vast amounts of personal information. From driving habits to entertainment preferences, these smart devices on wheels not only store data but often share it with manufacturers and third parties, sometimes without explicit consent. The implications are vast: insurance companies might adjust rates based on driving behavior, advertisers could target based on travel patterns, and law enforcement might access this data for investigations. Despite the conveniences these features offer, the blurred lines of data privacy raise alarming concerns. Are we trading privacy for convenience? Dive deeper to understand the full spectrum of your car’s data practices and learn how to safeguard your privacy on the road in this week’s article, The road less private: data concerns in today’s cars.
In tech news:
- New honeypot tricks hackers into showing their secrets. A cybersecurity firm, GoSecure, has been luring hackers into a trap by hosting a virtual machine with a weak password that can be easily cracked. Wired reports the firm has recorded over 100 hours of screen footage from these attacks, allowing them to observe the hackers’ every move. The hackers inadvertently revealed their hacking tools, techniques, and personal information about themselves.
- OpenAI releases new GPTBot web crawler. OpenAI has introduced GPTBot, a web crawler that is used to gather information from the Internet. OpenAI employs the bot to enhance its AI capabilities, such as ChatGPT, and provide AI-generated responses to queries. For those concerned with content scraping and protecting their intellectual property from big AI, GPTBot can be blocked from accessing websites using the robots.txt file. Search Engine Land reports that currently, only one IP range associated with GPTBot has been listed, but additional ranges may be added in the future.
- Amazon pulls plug on AI-generated book scam. Amazon has taken down a series of counterfeit books following author Jane Friedman’s objections. The books bore titles resembling Friedman’s work. As reported in The Register, she speculated that they may have been created using AI systems like ChatGPT due to their generic style. Despite initial unresponsiveness, Amazon removed the books, and Goodreads, where the titles also appeared, pledged to address similar issues. Friedman is calling for improved author verification methods to prevent such misuse.
- Not all fun and hacking at DEF CON 2023. A bomb threat disrupted this year’s DEF CON, the annual hacker convention in Las Vegas, leading to evacuation and cancellations. Though later revealed as a hoax, the incident highlighted the event’s tightened security, according to The Register, with the guards jokingly referred to as “Gravy SEALs” due to their tan uniforms. Also at the convention, author and journalist Cory Doctorow gave a talk emphasizing the dire need for change in the tech industry. He focused on the need to address concentrated corporate control resulting from lax antitrust regulations and discussed bipartisan efforts, such as the proposed America Act, that would break up tech giants like Facebook and Google.
- Speaking of data in cars… Ford has reassured owners of vehicles with a potential Wi-Fi vulnerability that their cars are still safe to drive, following a report highlighting security flaws in the vehicles’ infotainment systems. As reported by Bleeping Computer, the car manufacturer stated that the vulnerabilities identified in certain 2020 and 2021 models (which could allow unauthorized access to the vehicle’s systems), do not pose an immediate risk to driver safety (the link includes a full list of car models). Ford assured that it will release a software update to enhance security. In the meantime, the company suggested that worried customers can “simply turn off the WiFi functionality through the SYNC 3 infotainment system’s Settings menu.”
Previously in Tech Beat: Luxury surveillance’s privacy implications
In our previous article, Luxury surveillance and why it should concern you, we shed light on the concerning trend of expensive devices and security systems — like fitness trackers and Ring devices — that we use ostensibly to promote safety and convenience, but which actually harbor the potential to infringe upon individuals’ privacy and data security. Before adding another smart device to your life, it’s worth considering how these devices collect data and what the companies may do with that information in the future.
Tip of the week: Secure the data captured by your car
The Privacy4Cars app is a one-of-a-kind platform designed specifically for the removal of personal information from vehicles. By downloading the app, you gain access to a simple, step-by-step guide on how to delete your personally identifiable information from any car. Whether you’re selling your car, returning a lease, or renting a vehicle, Privacy4Cars provides model-by-model directions, ensuring that your data is securely erased.
- Download the Privacy4Cars app. Once the app is installed, open it and follow the registration process. Provide the necessary information to create your account.
- Connect to your vehicle. Follow the on-screen instructions to connect the app to your vehicle. This may involve pairing your phone with the vehicle’s infotainment system via Bluetooth or using a USB cable.
- Follow the step-by-step instructions. Once you’ve selected your vehicle, Privacy4Cars will provide detailed, model-specific instructions on how to delete your personal information.
- Verify and confirm. After completing the deletion process, Privacy4Cars will prompt you to verify and confirm that your personal information has been successfully deleted. Take a moment to review the changes and ensure that your data has been securely erased.
You can also enter your VIN into the Privacy4Cars’ Vehicle Privacy Report online to find out what your manufacturer collects on your make and model, and request to opt out of data collection.