Most smartphone owners struggle to keep up with the rapid advance of mobile technology. But in the rush to switch to our latest mobile phone, many users neglect to erase personal data when getting rid of old phones.
According to a recent study in the UK, 41% of British mobile phone owners are using recycled phones. Yet simultaneously, more than half of consumers are not worried about personal information left on their old phone. The study carried out by YouGov and BlackBelt showed.
The average smartphone is used for 1-2 years, after which it is passed on or sold when the owners mobile phone contract runs out. The mobile security firm Blackbelt analysed how carefully users deal with personal information stored on old phones.
Although 59% of recyclers attempt to manually delete the device’s data, Blackbelt has commented that fully removing personal information from a device is tricky.
In reality it isn’t possible for an individual to perform a full removal of personal data from any smart phone or tablet using a device’s in-built factory reset or by re-flashing the operating system. This is because contemporary devices are fitted with solid state memory, which uses a technique called wear levelling to minimise data corruption and extend its lifespan by over-ruling instructions to permanently overwrite old data.
Wiping your mobile content
Most mobile phones offer a function that allows the user to delete all content and restore the phone to factory settings. However deleting files or even formatting the drive will only erase the local information of the hard drive, meaning any sensitive data can still potentially be retrieved.
If the phone has an SD card reader, it’s important to remove this or manually wipe the content using a piece of data destruction software.
Feature image: stack of broken mobile phones via Shutterstock / copyright: RomboStudio