Clear And Present Danger

New Vehicles, Technology, Data, and Personally Identifiable Information: The Challenges of What’s Left in Salvage Vehicles and How Can We Protect Ourselves as Well as Previous Owners?
Vehicles are now all connected and store our personally identifiable information, (PII). This can be anything and everything. From storing your contacts, passwords, your shopping, where you have been, what you have done as well your personal address. Not to mention now being able to turn on your lights including your home, opening your garage door, and even unlocking your door and turning off your alarm. Also possibly stored: your financial data, i.e., credit cards, google wallet, apple pay; pretty much everything you store on your phone is now in your vehicle as well. 

Many people now have their whole lives on their phone. This information is now also in their vehicle.
This information can be very harmful if it falls into the wrong hands. For the owner that trades-in or sells their vehicle, erasing this PII will be an easy process. The dealer will be able to connect a piece of hardware (device), to the vehicle while communicating with the CPU or BCM and erase this PII. But what happens when a vehicle is involved in an accident?

Will this PII be able to be accessed and erased? Who will do it?
To do this, they will have to be able to establish communication with this vehicle. If this is not done, this information will remain and be stored in the hard memory of whichever modules contain this PII. The number of modules can vary to one on a base model vehicle to several modules on a higher end vehicle with all the bells and whistles.

So, what can we do when these vehicles now hit our facility?
We will have to know where these modules are and what PII they store. Remember this PII is stored in hard memory and we can’t assume that it was erased. 8% of the vehicles sold at salvage auctions are listed as inoperable. These will most likely have the PII still stored in them.

Also, understand this: if we have figured this out, so will the bad guys.
They will learn the same things, and what will now happen when they get their hands on these modules? We can and will be held liable for the damage they do, i.e., identity theft, loss of property or worse. Some are saying that the liability will fall on the Insurers. I think that in some cases it may, but I also think that the recyclers will be liable as well. Afterall, the damage would not have been done if the recycler had not sold this part. Ultimately, we can be held responsible for the thefts and crimes that were committed from the bad guys getting the PII from modules that we may unwittingly sell them. 

If you do not think this will happen, think again.
Just look at what can happen when the bad guys find a way to find cracks in the armor. Kia and Hyundai vehicles are now easy pickings for the thieves, and they have found it relatively easy to steal these cars. Anyone with a screwdriver and a USB cable that found this information from the Kia boys on the internet can now be a car thief. There have been over 7000 thefts reported in 2022 in the Chicago area alone. This has now grown to such huge proportions that the insurance industry does not want to insure these vehicles for theft. While this can be huge problem for full-service recyclers, the u-pull its will be the most vulnerable, because their customers have full access to their yard and all their vehicles and they will have no way of knowing what parts were pulled, and from what vehicle.

In the coming years, with the advances in technology, this problem is just going to grow. 

Hopefully the manufacturers (OEM’s) will work with us and share the locations and the contents of these modules. This will probably be VIN specific. While we all want the right to sell parts and remain profitable, this is one area that is going to pose a real problem going forward. 

Your Association, ARA, is closely monitoring this issue, and will keep its members updated as more information is made available.

ARA wants to protect its members’ rights to SAFELY sell parts.

The ARA mission: to Train, Educate, and Advocate.

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Marty Hollingshead

ARA Secretary · Northlake Auto Recyclers — Hammond, IN

Hollingshead has been in the professional automotive recycling industry for 45 years, including 34 years as President/Owner of Northlake Auto Recyclers, one of the industry’s leading facilities. Hollingshead prides himself on taking a hands-on approach in the business, employing the use of checks and balances for quality control to ensure customers only receive the highest quality parts. Northlake was one of the first automotive recycling facilities in the state of Indiana to receive from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management the Indiana Clean Yard – Gold Level Certification in 2009. Northlake was certified as one of the Indiana Certified Automotive Recycler Exemplary Standards (INCARES) program’s inaugural medalists and was the highest scoring facility in Indiana in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and tied for first place in 2018. Northlake was also the recipient of the 2016 ARA Certified Automotive Recycler of the Year award, having been nominated by his peers in the industry.