Valuable Data Exposed in Old Cell Phones

  • Comments: 3
  • Written on: September 6th, 2006

It seems that suddenly people are realizing that cellphones have become small computers. There have been dozens of stories ranging form the Journal Star, the Omaha World Herald, and many Internet websites about the kinds of interesting (and important) data that can be recovered from a cell phone by anyone with the ability to download a program off the Internet.

Cell phones are becoming more and more sophisticated as they include web browsing packages, text messaging, ringer downloading programs, and the ability to make wireless online purchases. But when you upgrade your cell phone, what happens to all of the stored text messages, credit card information and contact information?

A company named Trust Digital bought 10 phones on EBay to see what they could recover fro them. Recent reports indicate that even if you use your phone’s reset function the data in your phone can still be recovered by some sophisticated, but readily available recovery software. Here is what they found:

– One company’s plans to win a multimillion-dollar federal transportation contract.

– E-mails about another firm’s $50,000 payment for a software license.

– Details of prescriptions and receipts for one worker’s utility payments.

The recovered information was equal to 27,000 pages.

So needless to say, before you drop your phone in the donation box or sell it on EBay, you might want to visit the manufacturer’s website and inquire about a more complete erasure option. Many phones, including Palm’s Treo, have advanced erasure options, but they take much longer than the quick erasure options so they are typically buried deep in the phones software.

Another strategy to prevent data loss while still donating your old phone to charity is to store all of your data on a removable flash card. Most advanced phones have a port for adding a removable flash card. Once you are done with the phone, you can remove and destroy the card.

It seems that information and possibly identity theft have now moved form the mailbox, to the Internet, and straight into your own cell phone.

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