Leaving sensitive data on a mobile could result in identity theft

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 Research suggests modern users are not safeguarding their private data


In reaction to recent reports, internet security company BullGuard urges consumers to ensure that all private data stored on a mobile phone is deleted before it is sold or recycled, and warns that failing to do so could result in identity theft. While modern consumers are quick to shred bills and bank statements, cover a PIN number when using a cash machine and cancel a credit card if it is lost or stolen, the same care isn’t being taken over mobile devices that could contain similar data, it argues.


Fraud prevention company CPP recently found that 54% of second-hand mobile phones contain personal data such as text messages, emails and even bank details, following a recent study. Associated research confirmed that 81% of users 'believed' that all personal data had been deleted before sale, suggesting that the mobile industry is failing consumers in educating them about the safeguards required when selling or recycling phones.


Philip Dall, mobile security expert with BullGuard says “Whatever the reason for selling or recycling a phone, one potential danger that seems to have eluded many is the fact that sensitive data such as contact information, passwords, bank details and more are stored on the device and if not properly deleted will then be accessible to the person who receives it.”


The increase in recycling or selling on an old mobile in order to purchase the latest model comes as no surprise, and there is no reason to think that the trend is transitory: With 55% of games now being played on Smartphones (up 39% from 2009, according to research by market favourites PopCap) for example, the desire for more advanced technology to handle the latest titles should see this development continue.


"The wide range of applications available to help increase productivity or add convenience when out and about has made modern phones a must have item for many, and led users of older models unwilling to see out a contract”, says Dall.

“When selling a second-hand computer or laptop, few users would leave files and personal data stored on the hard drive before handing it over. This philosophy seems slow to migrate to Smartphones however, and with recent issues surrounding security gathering momentum it’s something that needs to be addressed.”


With mobiles becoming ever more versatile and capable of accessing a wide range of applications, websites and services, it has become increasingly difficult to work out exactly how and where a phone could store personal data, as well as how to remove this before passing it on. BullGuard identifies four key checks every user should make before selling or recycling a phone:


The most important and most obvious thing to do if you’re selling or recycling a phone is to back up all contact information and if necessary, text messages, photos, appointments and documents.


If you’re planning on using an existing SIM card in a new phone, make sure that all contacts are saved to the SIM, and then erase the contacts from the phone itself. This is usually quite easy to do through the on-screen menus in the Contacts application.


Make sure you remove the SIM card and any internal storage such as a microSD card from the phone before you package it up for sale. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget, particularly if you’re recycling a device.
Perform a factory reset of the phone if possible. This will ensure that system and application data and settings, downloaded applications and account data are removed.
See more at: www.bullguard.com