‘Resetting’ your old Smartphone fails to truly erase your personal data

In a study by security software vendor Avast, they purchased 20 Android smartphones from eBay and were able to recover from the phone – 40,000 photos – including 250 nude selfies, along with 750 emails and text messages, 250 contacts, identities of 4 previous phone owners and one completed loan application.

Users THOUGHT they were doing a ‘clean’ wipe and factory re-install on their phones.  It turns out though that after doing this wipe and re-install, your private data can often be quickly retrieved using generic, publicly available software.

With all of the personal data we store on our smartphones, here’s a safer way to erase your smartphone when you’re ready to move on to a new one.

1 – BACKUP YOUR DATA – Copy your photos off your phone, etc.  Don’t count on getting your data back after doing these steps, so make sure you get all the data off you need before doing this!

2 – ENCRYPT – Go to Settings, click on Security and select Encrypt phone.  Turn on encryption to scramble the data on your device.  Even if the wipe doesn’t delete the data, you’ll need the special decryption key to access it.

3 – FACTORY RESET – Do the Factory Reset in the Settings, Backup & Reset Menu.  Again, this will erase everything.  Make note though that most factory reset will NOT affect the data on your removable SD memory card.

4 – LOAD DUMMY DATA – Take lots of pictures (nothing personal please), make up a few fake contacts, etc.  The more, the better.

5 – FACTORY RESET AGAIN – If the data recovery programs are run on your phone now, the first data that will pop up will be the dummy data we just made up.

If you’re still concerned about your data after this and you don’t have anyone you want to give/sell your phone to, the next step would be to physically take a hammer to your phone or toss it into the Chesapeake (salt water + electronics = no worries about your data getting stolen)!

Don’t forget that your old PC can suffer the same fate!  If you just ‘delete’ your old data, it can be relatively recovered.

As always, if we can help you secure your data or securely erase your old computer, give us a call at Discount Computer Service, 410-358-7300.

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