Smartphones may not be so easy to scrub

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by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 18 at 12:40 AM

HOUSTON -- These days, your old cell phones can earn you fast cash.

“Anywhere from a $100 to $200, $250,” said Paul Rao, owner at Fix Ur Gadget in Memorial City.

Yet Rao said some owners may be parting with more than just their device.

“Even if it looks clean, it can still be scraped for data by third-party software,” he said.

It is scary news at a time when phones are practically replacing computers. Some analysts predict that by 2020, smart phones will store much of what people now carry in their wallets.

Working with McAfee, online security expert Robert Siciliano recently looked at the contents of 30 phones and computers purchased online.

He found that half of them still had secure information, porn, and even viruses from previous owners who supposedly scrubbed them.

“We wanted to see what kind of data we could find on second-hand devices found on Craigslist and eBay,” Siciliano said. “We found peoples’ social security numbers, bank account information, user names and passwords.”

Siciliano also said he discovered the easiest devices to scrub were iPhones and Blackberries, whereas Windows XP machines, Netbooks and Android devices sometimes held information after factory settings were restored.

His advice for someone selling a device now: don’t risk it.

“I would destroy that, I would drill holes in it, I would smash it with a sledgehammer,” he said.

Rao, however, said owners should not be so nervous. At the same time, he suggested software at blancco.com as an additional line of defense.

 

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