There are two scenarios in which you would give up your old phone: turning it in for an upgrade or selling it at the second-hand market.
In both cases, you have no idea who ends up using your phone. Most of us will never give our phone away without properly erasing it and performing a factory reset, thinking that it will eradicate the user data. Well, think again.
It’s called “digital extortion” and it’s a genuine phenomenon. Depending on the platform, parts of personal data can be recovered from mobile devices even after a factory reset. Using publicly available hardware and software tools, the same tools used by federal forensic investigators, private digital forensics experts, and data recovery companies, a malicious individual can access your deleted data.
So what should we do?
The answer to that question depends on the platform we are using. iPhone owners can relax, knowing that in most cases, factory reset is enough. For a while now, iPhones decrypt the user data by default. When a factory reset is initiated, the iPhone deletes the decryption keys. Technically, the user data is still there, but it is encrypted, and it will take great efforts to decrypt, efforts that are beyond the capability of a single hacker.
Yes, very partial recovery is possible, and a small percentage of the data still is recoverable, but it’s nothing compared to what could be recovered from Android-based devices.
The Android-based device is heaven for data recovery specialists, forensic experts, and malicious hackers.
Often, following a factory reset, using the proper tools and methods, a significant amount of data can be recovered. Pictures, videos, SMS messages, browsing history, chats and location history—all of those could be recovered.
So what should an Android user do? Here are some tips:
- Encrypt your phone before resetting it. By doing so, you are making sure that if someone recovers your deleted data, it will be encrypted and inaccessible. In most android phones, you can find the encryption option by going into settings>security>encrypt device.
- There is an excellent selection of apps you can download from Google Play, such as iShredder, Secure Delete Pro, and more. Those apps will help you to wipe and overwrite your data securely.
- Finally, please keep in mind that many Android devices carry a microSD card for additional storage. Make sure that you remove the card before turning your phone in. It’s relatively easy to recover deleted files from a microSD card unless it was properly wiped and overwritten.
Today, our privacy is of utmost importance, and our private information could be worth a great deal if it falls into the wrong hands. Keep that in mind when turning in your phone to a stranger, and keep your private data safe.
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