Everybody loves getting the latest smart phone. What to do with your old one? Perhaps, you plan to sell it on eBay or donate it to a charity. Whatever you decide, be sure to remove all sensitive data from it. Otherwise, you could create an identity theft and fraud problem for yourself.
The sensitive data on your smart phone isn't just your list of contacts and their phone numbers. The sensitive data also includes your passwords, email, browser history, calendar, and photos -- the things that document when and where you go both online and in the real world. The sensitivity of both your online passwords and browser history should be obvious. With access to your email, identity criminals could hack into your financial accounts and reset your online passwords. That would be an identity-theft disaster.
How to safely dispose of an old smart phone? Before selling or donating an old smart phone, security experts advise consumers to:
- Remove the SIM card
- Remove any memory cards
- Run a factory reset to delete sensitivie data. To do this, check the (print or online) manual for your smart phone.
But that may not be enough. Accessdata, a computer forensics firm, performed an analysis last year of several popular smart phones available on the resale market. Almost all had sensitive data from the prior owners. As Dark Reading reported:
"The phones were the iPhone 3G, Sanyo 2300, HTC Wildfire, LG Optimus, and HTC Hero... Even though all of the Android phones had been wiped through a factory reset, four of the five phones also included information that would take someone with forensics tools and knowledge to extract from more hidden storage locations... Some of the details available within those four phones included user account information, Social Security numbers, geolocation tags for where the user had taken pictures using the phone, deleted text messages, and a resume. "
In this case, the only secure option is to go old-school: wrap it in cloth and then take a hammer to your old smart phone -- even the older clamshell types. Don't try to resell or donate it. Most consumers don't have access to industrial-strength hard-drive shredding services.
What did you do with your old smart phone? How did you remove any sensitive data from it? Or are your old devices gathering dust in a drawer or closet at home?