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Android advice: Wiping a device does not delete all data


Editor's Corner by Luke Jones on Wednesday July 09, 2014.

editor corner · google news · android news · software news · luke jones

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Android data security Avast
Android data security Avast

The second hand smartphone market is vibrant as people sell their current Android devices to upgrade to a new model. If you have ever sold a phone, you have probably done the diligent thing and deleted everything to leave none of your data behind, you played it safe. Think again though as it seems Google's Android reset function does not deleted all of your data.

A study by reputed anti-virus firmware giant Avast found startling results when the company bought twenty used Android smartphones online. All of the handsets had been "wiped" using Android's in built deletion process, but Avast was still able to find copious amounts of personal data. The recovered content included images, videos, messages, contacts, and identities, and the company did it all using well known and used hacker tools and practices.

Android works much like your PC. When you delete a file it is only marked as a storage space that can be overwritten, until new data replaces that space the old file can be recovered. Avast was able to recover a vast amount of data and detailed it as such.

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."

If you are thinking that all storage devices behave this way then you would be right, even Android's great rival iOS does this. However, when data is deleted on Apple's devices the platform automatically encrypts the deleted space by default, so the data is still present but not accessible. Android also allows for encryption, but it is not a default measure, so if you want to protect your "deleted" data further then you should encrypt it beforehand. The difference between iOS and Android is that iOS uses hardware encryption which is more secure, while Android offers software encryption as an option.

This provides some serious food for thought, especially if you have sold or are considering selling your Android device. Avast naturally has a tool that does the job properly, but in the interest of transparency, there are numerous other services that will cleanly wipe your data for good. A quick Google search will point you in the right direction.

source: BGR

 
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