Warning: Wiping Android phones doesn’t actually delete personal data (here’s what to do about it)
Wednesday July 9, 2014, 9:30 AM
Have you sold your used Android phones in the past when upgrading to a new smartphone? Were you safe, making sure to reset the phones and wipe them of all your personal data first? Bad news, Android users: A new study has revealed that using Google’s reset function in Android doesn’t actually delete your personal data.
Computer and mobile security firm Avast recently conducted a study in which it purchased 20 used smartphones online. The devices had been wiped using Android’s in-built reset mechanism, but Avast was still able to recover private photos, contacts, owner identities and more using common tools that any hacker might posses.
As is the case with all computers, basic delete functions only mark the storage used by files as space that may now be overwritten. Until new data is stored in its place, the “deleted” files can still be recovered.
According to Avast, the company was able to recover:
- More than 40,000 stored photos
- More than 1,500 family photos of children
- More than 750 photos of women in various stages of undress
- More than 250 photos of male nude selfies
- More than 1,000 Google searches
- More than 750 emails and text messages
- More than 250 contact names and email addresses
- Four previous owners’ identities
- One completed loan application
“The amount of personal data we retrieved from the phones was astounding. We found everything from a filled-out loan form to more than 250 nude selfies,” said Avast’s President of Mobile, Jude McColgan. “We purchased a variety of Android devices from sellers across the U.S. and used readily available recovery software to dig up personal information that was previously on the phones. The take-away is that even deleted data on your used phone can be recovered unless you completely overwrite it.”
Are you getting ready to sell your old Android phone and upgrade? In order to protect yourself and to prevent all those naked selfies from hitting the Web, install Avast’s free anti-theft tool and use the thorough wipe feature, which deletes and overwrites all of your personal data.