Cell Phone Data Scare

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Last updated April 12, 2019

Do you think you have wiped the personal data from your old cellular phone before passing it on?  Think again.  A British study examining old cell phones found that more than fifty percent of them still had personal data accessible even after being wiped, with everything from bank account details, friends’ telephone numbers and email addresses, credit card PIN numbers and much more besides, still stored on the phones, despite their former owners’ best efforts.

Jason Hart, a hacker who uses his skills to help improve security, bought thirty-five used cell phones from eBay and secondhand shops and a further fifty Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.  Nineteen of the old cell phones and twenty-seven of the SIM cards still contained almost all of the personal data originally stored on them by their former owners.

“This report is a shocking wake up call and shows how mobile phones can inadvertently cause people to be careless with their personal data,” says Danny Harrison from data protection company CPP Group, which is based in the United Kingdom.  The reason for the shocking result is thought to be that people who have deleted data from their cell phones before passing them on believed that was enough to protect them, when in reality they should first log out of all remote accounts that the cell phone is linked to via the internet, and then factory reset the phone to all its original settings.

“The safest way to remove all of your data from a mobile phone or SIM card is to totally destroy the SIM and double check to ensure that all content has been removed from your phone before disposal,” Hart advises.