You may soon regret snapping those embarrassingly intimate selfies you thought you permanently deleted from your Android phone before selling it on eBay.
It turns out that using the factory reset tool on Android smartphones doesn’t permanently remove your personal data files, including photos, credit card information, emails, chats and other private information.
According to Tech Times, security software company Avast recovered “40,000 personal photos, including 1,500 photos with children in them and 250 selfies of someone’s ‘manhood,’ 750 texts and emails, 250 contacts, a loan application, a sexual harassment course, and the identities of the previous owners of four of the smartphones” from 20 secondhand Android smartphones it purchased on eBay.
Yikes. The phones were all wiped using Android’s factory reset settings, but Avast used FTK Imager – a readily available digital analysis software that’s fairly easy to use – to recover the wiped data, Tech Times said.
“When a file is deleted, the operating system merely deletes the corresponding pointers in the file table and marks the space occupied by the file as free,” explains Jaromir Horejsi, computer virus researcher and analyst at Avast. “The reality is that the file is not deleted and the data it contained still remains on the drive.”
It’s important to note that Avast sells an Android security app that includes a deletion tool that the company claims is better at wiping Android devices, Slate said.
If you don’t want to download or purchase anything to wipe your Android device, there appears to be another option. According to Hot Hardware, you can enable encryption on your Android. After the storage is encrypted, you can wipe and reset your phone using Android’s factory reset tool, “which will obliterate the encryption key and ensure the data on your device can’t be read,” Hot Hardware said. Click here to read more about encrypting your phone data, then wiping it.
If you operate under the “better to be safe than sorry” philosophy, you might want to rethink selling or donating your old smartphone.
Have you sold or donated your old smartphone? Are you surprised to hear how easy it was for Avast to recover supposedly deleted personal information? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.