How to definitively remove data when upgrading your smartphone

MoblilePhoneTNBefore you recycle or throw your old smartphone away when you upgrade to the next latest and greatest, it’s vital that you remove all business and personal data from the device. Here, mobile security expert Michael McKinnon explains how.

Before you recycle or throw your old smartphone away when you upgrade to the next latest and greatest, it’s vital that you remove all business and personal data from the device. Here, mobile security expert Michael McKinnon explains how.

In an era of frequent and seamless device upgrades, it’s easy to ditch an old handset and move on to the next. However, chances are the old device has business and personal information lingering on it, putting its owner at a greater risk of identity theft.

Think about all the data stored on your phone: text messages, emails, perhaps photos of documents or product prototypes. People are now carrying more and more information on their smartphones, and they need to wipe out that data when the time comes. Your identity is essentially yours to lose, so take every precaution possible to stay safe.

 While the factory reset button seems like the logical place to start, numerous industry and security experts report that even after people carry out this exercise, personal information often remains. The following tips will help ensure private information is erased:

  • Remove the memory and SIM cards. Both store data and are best kept safe in your possession or destroyed.
  • Use a data removal application to ensure data really is deleted. Android users can use AVG AntiVirus Free, for example. For other platforms there is a list of apps available on the CTIA web site.
  • Once the data is deleted, then run a factory reset. Instructions can be found on manufacturers’ or carriers’ websites.
  • If you are going to simply throw away your mobile phone, older handsets can contain toxic materials. Consult your local authority or drop it off at a mobile phone retailer, where they will be able to dispose of it correctly. Additionally, there are specialist companies that will take it apart and recycle each component.
  • Of course, recycling or handing your old smartphone on for use is a good option; there are many charities and organisations that redistribute old phones and will even send you a pre-paid postage box to send it in. Just search on the internet for the many options.

If you want to learn more about how to remove data from PCs, USB sticks, CDs and DVDs, watch this video.

Michael McKinnon is Security Advisor at AVG Technologies AU.

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