Avast: Factory Reset Doesn’t Remove Personal User Data

/ 2 years ago

Android_ICS_Factory Reset

The assumption that a factory reset erases all the data you’ve put onto an Android device is a fairly common one among most Android users. However, this simply may not be the case. This isn’t the first time that the utility of the factory reset function has been called into question, 5 months ago we wrote a piece about how used phone vendors were selling phones with recoverable data on. The latest details come from Avast who claim that wiping your Android device through the factory reset could still leave much of your personal data behind.

Avast went to the length of buying 20 used phones on eBay that had been wiped using Android’s factory reset function. With some digital recovery tools and a little effort Avast were able to recover data from all 20 devices.

“Although at first glance the phones appeared thoroughly erased, we quickly retrieved a lot of private data. In most cases, we got to the low-level analysis, which helped us recover SMS and chat messages,” 

From the 20 smartphones Avast managed to extract:

  • 40,000 images (1000 of those included partial or full nude images)
  • 750 emails and texts
  • 250 contacts
  • The identity of the previous owners
  • A completed loan application
  • GPS coordinates detailing the previous owners travelling habits

How did Avast recover all this data? Simply using FTK imager, a free digital forensics tool available on line. Avast also used knowledge and information provided on the XDA developer forums, such as the need to use the Android Debug Bridge and Backup Extractor functions which essentially allow data to be extracted without the device being unlocked. Worse still Avast’s consumer habits survey revealed only 8% use software intended to wipe these kind of digital footprints.

Short of burning your old smartphone into a pile of ashes there are not any easy ways to erase your digital footprint. What tools do you use to erase your Android data?

Source: Avast, Via: VR-Zone

Image courtesy of AcerTabletForum

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