7 tips for wiping your device clean of all data
Most people don't hold onto their mobile devices for very long. New models boasting higher resolution cameras, sharper screens, and an abundance of new features, make buying new and getting rid of the old an annual tradition. However, before you turn it into the carrier for a price rebate, you want to be sure you eliminate all of your personal data first.
If you are selling your device, then you need to take additional precautions, as there may be another consumer utilizing your device and possibly accessing any information that may have been inadvertently left on the device. Mobile devices are built for synchronicity and convenience, so many functions are occurring in the background to offer you a personalized experience. This personalization should be stripped away.
Wiping your phone’s data requires more than just deleting apps and pictures. Studies from security firms such as Avast have found that deleted files can sometimes be recovered from phones even after a factory reset was performed. Resetting the phone is supposed to restore the device back to the original manufacturers settings, but it does not mean there isn’t any residual data left on the phone and that the process did not permanently destroy or overwrite all existing files that were on the phone.
You should avoid throwing the old device into the trash, even if you destroy it, phones contain various chemicals including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine which can cause environmental problems.
Before you get rid of the phone, make sure you backup all of your data to either the cloud or another physical storage device. You’ll want all of your contacts, photos, and any other important data to be intact, so find a secure method of transferring the information.
Below are seven tips for wiping your device clean of your proprietary or personal data before selling it or trading it in with your carrier, handing it down, throwing it in a desk drawer or recycling it through an approved center.
- Revoke the phone’s access to sites such as Google and Facebook, by going into those sites’ settings and removing your device, which should appear as your model number. This breaks the connections between the device and synced calendars and email through Google and other social logins and APIs via Facebook.
- Remove any SIM cards and storage cards such as SD or MicroSD that may reside in the device. Copy the data from these cards and keep them as backup copies in the event you don’t need them for your new device.
- Before doing the reset, make sure you un-pair the device from all other devices such as laptops, smart watches, fitness trackers, cloud backups, iPads and anything else you may have used. Otherwise, the paired device might keep trying to sync with the phone updating information you already removed from it.
- After un-pairing the device, go online and search for the official manufacturer instructions on resetting your phone. Doing this will bring it back to a state closest to when you first purchased the phone. The reset instructions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so be sure you reference the instructions.
- Perform a double check. Go through the phone one last time to make sure your personal information is completely removed. Check out the image galleries, phone contacts, and any syncing activity to spot any personal content. If you find your personal data, then perform the factory reset again and/or look at apps that can wipe the phone thoroughly.
- Load dummy data onto the device. Take a few meaningless pictures and then add some fake contacts. After doing this for a few minutes, you can perform another factory reset, which will further bury your real data "behind" this additional reset.
- Drill through the device to make it unusable by others. Go completely through the phone in several locations, including the charging input, and then drop it off at an electronics recycling receptacle. Physical destruction of the device makes it extremely difficult for anyone to access its data. You can also place it in a bag and take a sledgehammer to it until there are no pieces left that are bigger than a half-inch. The most extreme method would be to use an industrial-strength grinder to turn the phone into dust!
David Zimmerman has been in the hardware/software industry for over 30 years, specifically in the data recovery software market for 18 years. His company, LC Technology International, Inc., makes data recovery products for most of his competitors. Clients include original equipment manufacturers, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, corporate security specialists and IT consultants, among others. Available worldwide and published in more than 24 different languages, LC Technology products are available direct or through several major manufacturers of flash memory products.