Erased phone memory not so erased after all

You may have erased the memory on your phone, but that doesn’t mean that everything is gone from it. Trust Digital, a Virginia-based phone security company, bought ten used phones on eBay this summer to prove that point. All of the phones were reasonably sophisticated and all had been erased according to directions from the operating manuals. Despite that, though, the company was able to use software that is available inexpensively on the internet to retrieve information from nearly all of them.

Among the thought-to-be erased data that was recovered were text messages between a married man and his illicit mistress, bank account information and passwords, details of prescriptions, plans for a company to win a multi-million contract, and e-mails about a $50,000 payment for software. The retrieved data in total covered 27,000 printed pages. Many of the phones were personal phones but were crammed full of corporate details.

The problem the phones have is flash memory. It is very slow to completely erase the inexpensive memory, so manufacturers instead use a faster but less thorough process. So be careful what’s on your phone if you sell it.


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