Apr 1, 2013

"Wiping" Your Cell Phone Doesn't Necessarily Wipe The Data

English: Siemens SXG75 mobile phone, Metallic ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you ever performed a factory reset, or a data wipe of your cell phone then turned around on Craigslist? Well you may have been giving away more than you bargained for. You may have given away stuff like your social security number, your contact lists and even your personal email.

The folks at Wired gathered up a number of cell phones around the office, asked the owners to perform a wipe on the device then they shipped them off to AccessData for analysis with their Mobile Phone Examiner Plus application.

From Wired:
Simply restoring a phone to its factory settings won’t completely clear it of data. Even if you use the built-in tools to wipe it, when you go to sell your phone on Craigslist you may be selling all sorts of things along with it that are far more valuable — your name, birth date, Social Security number and home address, for example. You may inadvertently sell your old photos, nudes and all. The bottom line is, the stuff you thought you had gotten rid of is still there, if someone knows how to look.
...one user left his micro SD card in the phone. Although the contents of the card were deleted, the card had not been formatted. This, apparently, meant the files were recoverable. And because Android cached application data to this SD card, Reiber could recover e-mail data as well — enough that we could positively identify the phone’s owner via his e-mail address. But the real treasure trove was the photos and documents. The photos still had metadata, including the dates, times and locations in which the photos were shot. And while the documents were benign, if the phone’s owner had stored sensitive information on his phone — think a tax return with a Social Security number, or a .pdf bank statement — we would have had that, too.
Lee Reiber from AccessData said that as of right now, there are no secure ways to wipe your data if you plan on reselling your mobile device. He said the only sure-fire way of making sure that nobody can get the data off of your cell phone is by destroying it with a hammer or something.
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