It is always a good idea to wipe off your smartphone thoroughly before considering selling it or even giving it away to a friend. Contrary to the popular belief, the traditional data reset does not do the trick completely, leaving all your data under the danger of recovery and misuse of information. In spite of the data being hidden after the reset, there are still means of recovering the same and tools by which the information can be easily withdrawn.
A study from the desks of the popular security firm, Avast carried out the purchase of twenty old smartphones from eBay to see how far they could go on to prove this point – the results were drastic as they were able to recover over 40,000 photos, emails, contacts, text messages and even the names & other personal information about the device owners. This is when you realize exactly how vital it is to get rid of your existing data before lending, selling or even considering getting rid of your android phone.
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It is not that difficult to figure out how Avast was able to recover the files that were assumed to be deleted and gone. What OS does is delete the pointers on the table only to mark the space taken by the file as now free. The truth however tells you that the file still does exist and very much exists so on the device storage.
As you keep adding data to your phone, the system gets the new data to somehow overwrite the existing data. But the entire thing will still be on your phone as soon as you format the device. Considering the fact that you go on to sell this phone to a stranger – that could be a major problem since all your data can very much, be extracted by this person. And not just that – to add to the horror this can be done quite easily with free existing data recovery software. Ever come across forums bombarded with queries such as “How to clean my Android Phone?”, “How to clean Android Phone?”, “How to Properly Format my Android Phone?”, “How to properly wipe the phone’s data?” and many more alike? Well, this is why.
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That should be put to rest now that we have come up with a post that tells you how – yes, this post will tell you how you can assuredly remove all your private data from your Android phones. Before we jump right to wiping off data, it is only wise to be familiar with encryption on your device. In case you are already not using the Encrypt, be sure to first Encrypt your phone before executing the hard reset on your device.
Step 1: Encrypt your Phone
Android phones ideally come with the Encrypt option. Post encryption, nothing changes in terms of the functionality of your mobile applications or device in general. But the catch is that the guys looking to retrieve information off your device can do practically nothing with it. Of course, if you are an existing Encrypt user, you can jump on to the ‘Factory reset the phone’ section of this post.
You will have to go to Settings and select Security in order to Encrypt your Android device. This part will take you to the Encrypt Phone option. Most Android phones have this and it shouldn’t be very difficult to get through.
Step 2: Factory Reset the Phone
The next step in order is to pull through the Factory reset. In order to do that, you need to Go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset and then press click Reset phone or Reset device.
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Once this is done, your phone is completely rid of all your private data and whatever data can still be recovered will only be encrypted, thus useless for any other individual. This makes your device entirely safe for selling or lending.
Step 3: Overwriting with Junk data (Not Necessary)
If you are still not convinced, here’s another step you can try out to make sure that your data is safe. Although, this isn’t exactly required post encryption of the data but if you are still going for it –
What you can do is, overwrite your encrypted data with junk data. As mentioned earlier, once you perform reset, OS only deletes the pointers in file table and new data overwrites the existing data, over time. Now, to do this you would need to physically transfer the junk data in the phone to alternate your encrypted data that still lingers somewhere on the device.
If you are doing this, you should use long videos to fill up more space on the device. Your aim should be to fill up the storage to a deep limit. Once you are done piling up junk data, you are all set to push on the Factory reset again. After two factory resets, it is safe to assume that now only the junk data remains that too encrypted. Which means, the unlucky person who ever tries to divulge data from this device, will have a hard time trying to get to nothing, in the end.
Step 4: Use third-party apps to delete the data.
Some applications do allow you to remove your private data from your smartphones before selling them out. Security company Avast, itself offers Avast Anti-theft app, which is a free application available at Play Store. All that needs to be done now is to install the app and turn on the thorough wipe feature within it.
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Once done, Log in to your My Avast account from a desktop and wipe off your phone. This should be good enough as it will remove and tape over all your personal data saved on your mobiles.
Evident as it now is – it is beyond important to carefully remove data off your sets before you decide on selling, lending or even giving them away for the sake of it. Most personal pictures and videos are leaked on the internet through recovered data of sold devices. It is crucial to be alert. Now, we may all have sold devices in the past without being very careful but care needs to be taken in the future. Once again, please do be alert. If need be, bookmark this post for future references.
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Also, please do not forget to let your friends, family and colleagues know of the methods discussed here. Share this article with everybody you know so we all know how to accurately wipe off our Android smartphones before selling them to strangers.