BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - You’ve probably been through a few phones over the past decade. The temptation is high to sell them when you buy a new device, but did you take care of all the data stored on your phone?
"When you turn in your phone, it could go anywhere. It could get shipped over to China to be refurbed and you don’t know who’s getting your data or what, so make doubly sure that everything is wiped,” a cyber security expert who runs UBreakIFix said.
An international study from Blancco Technology Group and Ontrack found that almost half of the electronics they examined still had residual data on them. The group was able to recover passport photos, copies of birth certificates, financial records and resumes. Cyber security expert Tom Lamkin says even if you clean your phone, it may not permanently remove your data.
"Apple and Samsung are aware of these issues. They are doing better job of making it easier to wipe, and when you do wipe that you totally wipe it. You just have to make sure that you’re erasing all settings and content,” Lamkin said.
It’s easy to wipe your phone. On the iPhone, make sure you back up your device before you do this then sign out of iCloud and iTunes and the app store. Then go back to settings and tap general, then reset, then tap erase all content and settings.
On Android phones, you’ll need to encrypt the data. This scrambles your information and locks it using a special key. Your data and anything created afterwards will require a key in order for it to be opened. Afterwards, go to the backup and reset section of your settings app then tap the “Factory Data Reset” option.
Lamkin believes a lot of people miss a step or two when erasing their devices and that's why residual data is being found on them. You can also buy software that erases all the data and will confirm that your phone has been wiped clean with a verified certificate.
In this digital age, information is key, and if you aren’t careful you could hand over the keys to your personal information to someone looking to make a quick buck or steal your identity.
Apple has more tips on what you should do before you sell, give away or trade in your devices here.