How to Securely Dispose of Your Old Smartphone

How many of us have simply restored a phone to its factory settings before recycling it or selling it on Craigslist?

What if I told you that there could still be data left behind?

This week, a mobile forensics team released the results of an experiment meant to discover what kind of data lurks on discarded mobile devices. They rounded up as many wiped old phones they could find, then used commercially available hardware and software to salvage information from the phones’ memory.

The result? While most of the devices held no personally identifiable information, multiple users left memory cards in their phones. And although each user deleted their phone’s contents, files were still recoverable with specialized software. In the end, the forensics team uncovered e-mail data, contact information, and a treasure trove of photos and documents. Just imagine if the phone’s owner had stored a tax return with a Social Security number, or a bank statement!

How to erase your phone’s data – for good!

Take a moment to consider how much data is stored on your smartphone. Your phone tracks your location, your calls, and your contact information for friends in family; it stores your photos, your mobile banking information, email messages, and more. These are more than enough reasons to take proper disposal of your device seriously, but if you need additional motivation, remember that the digital assets stored on your devices (phones, tablets, and PCs) are worth $35,000 on average.

So while it may be tempting to make a quick buck on eBay or Craigslist with your old phone, we recommend that you take a more creative approach.

Smartphone Bomb

If you do get creative, whether you decide to smash your smartphone with a sledgehammer, use a drill press to turn it into Swiss cheese, or toss it out of your 5th story window, for total peace of mind, never sell or donate an old device. While a personal friend would never think to snoop for your wiped data, there are many cybercriminals who jump at the chance to recover deleted bank statements or scandalous photos.

But of course, selling an old smartphone isn’t the only way to lose your data. To protect against unpredictable device loss or theft, always keep security software like McAfee All Access with McAfee Mobile Security up-to-date. This will allow you to locate your device if lost, remotely lock your device to prevent misuse, and remotely wipe your personal data to protect your information.

For more information on this topic and up-to-date information on the latest security news and threats, be sure to follow our team on Facebook and on Twitter with @McAfeeConsumer.

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