AVAST sends out a reminder that people who sell their old smartphones need to take precautions to ensure that personal data is securely deleted. The security firm purchased 20 used smartphones from eBay and it's quite startling what the company managed to recover from such a small sample set.
AVAST claims they recovered over 40,000 stores photos including over 1,500 family photos of children, over 750 pictures of women in various stages of undress and over 250 male nude selfies. The analysts also found over 1,000 Google searches, more than 750 e-mails and text messages, over 250 contact names and e-mail addresses, four previous owners' full identify details and even one completed loan application.
No one cares about my old photos, messages and Google searches, right?
Wrong! As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Now add private Facebook messages that include geo-location, Google searches for open job positions in a specific field, media files, and phone contacts. Put all of these pieces together to complete the puzzle and you have a clear picture of who the former smartphone owner was. Stalkers, enemies, and thieves can abuse personal data to stalk, blackmail and steal people’s identities. They can use this information to watch people’s every move, exploit their strange fetishes, open credit cards in their name, or even continue what they started by further selling their personal information online.
AVAST recommends to make sure that you not only delete but also overwrite personal data to ensure that it can't be recovered. On recent iOS phones this task is quite simply, iOS 3.0 and higher has a secure erase feature located at Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings.
On Android this can be done by setting up whole device encryption and doing a factory reset.
Obviously AVAST recommends its own tool which can be found at avast! Anti-Theft.