Avast, maker of mobile and PC security software, is warning Smartphone users who are selling their mobile devices online, that deleting files from those mobile devices is not enough, and recommends overwriting data, which is the only real way of removing personal information. The security software maker was able to easily retrieved personal data from used smartphones and other mobile devices sold online, despite consumers deleting their data. From the used devices, Avast was able to recover more than 40,000 personal photos, emails, text messages, and – in some cases – the identities of the sellers.
"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 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner's manhood," said Jude McColgan, President of Mobile at Avast. " He further stated: "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."
Avast analyzed 20 used smartphones whose previous owners had performed a factory reset or a "delete all" operation on their devices. Despite these efforts, Avast was able to recover the following personal information:
- 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 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner's manhood
- 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
Jude McColgan also said: "More than 80,000 used smartphones are for sale daily on eBay in the U.S. Along with their phones, consumers may not realize they are selling their memories and their identities. Images, emails, and other documents deleted from phones can be exploited for identity theft, blackmail, or for even stalking purposes. Selling your used phone is a good way to make a little extra money, but it’s potentially a bad way to protect your privacy.”
Avast advises consumers interested in selling their used Android device to first install the free Avast Anti-Theft app and then use the thorough wipe feature to permanently delete and overwrite all files on the device, thus making personal data irretrievable.
The Avast Anti-Theft app is available for free on Google Play. Click here to download and install it.