Androids Factory Reset Does Not Delete Your Naked Selfies, Texts or Emails.
The Czech Republic based security firm Avast has announced how easy it is to recover data from a phone after its been factory-wiped.
Most Smartphone’s come with a factory reset option which is designed to restore your device to the original factory settings and wipe all the data from it however Avast has shown that this is not the case.
The Security firm purchased 20 phones from eBay and claims it was able to use commercially available software to recover over 40,000 stored photos. More than 750 if these phones were of partially clothed or naked women and there were some 250 selfies of “what appeared to be the previous owners manhood”
There were also some 1500 family photos of children, 1000 Google searches, 750 emails and text messages and 250 contact names and email addresses. Jude McColgan of Avast said “they were able to access the images using basic forensic security programs, despite users having used factory reset.”
Embarrassment aside, some of this data could potentially be very harmful in the wrong hands and could enable people to track down the previous owner of the phone as well as provide banking, address or billing information which may have serious repercussions.
The reason the data was so easy to recover is that many times when a factory reset is used the device only clears the indexing of the data and doesn’t actually delete the data. Normally if the phone is used after the factory reset some of this data would be overwritten however it’s important to know that a factory reset will probably not delete the data on your phone so it shouldn’t be relied upon to do so.
The company also said that “deleting files from your Android phone before selling it or giving it away is not enough. You need to overwrite the files making them irretrievable”
There are plenty of applications and software packages out there that can do this for you. Some of it is even free.
Google did have some comeback to Avast stating that the smartphones used in this research were outdated and didn’t “reflect the security protections in Android versions that are used by the vast majority of users”
Google also recommended that users should enable encryption on their devices before applying a factory reset to ensure files cannot be accessed. They went on to say that while this feature has been available for the past three years on Android phones it’s disabled by default so users would have to turn it on.
However Alan Calder, founder of cyber-security and risk management firm IT Governance, told the BBC that it is possible to retrieve even encrypted data. He said “Google’s recommended routine for protecting the data only makes it harder for someone to recover the data,” he said. “It does not make it impossible.”
“If you don’t want your data recovered, destroy the phone…. Any other ‘solution’ simply postpones the point at which someone is able to access your confidential data.”