While many have been aware for some time that deleting the hard drive of your desktop or laptop may not be enough to keep the police at bay or others from having access to your data, the same is true of your smartphone. It makes sense given the fact that your smartphone isn’t much less than a computer at its core. In fact, most newer smartphones have more computing power than all of NASA’s computers together when they put a man on the moon.
AVAST, a Prague-based security software company, recently purchased a number of smartphones and were able to recover a staggering amount of data including 40,000 photos, emails, text messages and more. Additionally, they were able to find the identities of the sellers in a number of cases.
Overwrite your smartphone don’t just delete
“We purchased a variety of Android devices from sellers across the US and used readily available recovery software to dig up personal information that was previously on the phones,” said Jude McColgan, President of Mobile at AVAST.
“The take-away is that even deleted data on your used phone can be recovered unless you completely overwrite it,” he said.
So right there let’s stop…overwrite your data. The company analyzed 20 used smartphones where the prior owners had used a factory reset or “delete all” features on their phones only for that data to be potentially available to the new buyer with the knowledge of how to perform rebuilds of data structures.
Just what did they recover?
Specifically, the researchers were able to recover more than 40,000 stored photos, more than 1,500 family photos of children, more than 1,000 Google searches, over 750 emails and text messages, more than 250 contact names and email addresses, four previous owners’ identities and one completed loan application.
“More than 80,000 used smartphones are for sale daily on eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) in the US. Along with their phones, consumers may not realize they are selling their memories and their identities,” McColgan said.
“Images, emails, and other documents deleted from phones can be exploited for identity theft, blackmail, or for even stalking purposes. Selling your used phone is a good way to make a little extra money, but it’s potentially a bad way to protect your privacy,” added McColgan.