Privacy Implication of Mobile Phone Sales

Interhack looks at mobile phones discarded for sale for WTTE Fox 28 in Columbus, finding messages, photos, business documents, and other private information. Using security features like encryption can help you sell your used phone while protecting your privacy.

COLUMBUS (January 29, 2015). Interhackers C. Matthew Curtin and Brad Moore work with Columbus TV station WTTE Fox 28 to show that selling your mobile phone may provide the buyer with your personal information. Reporter Adam Aaro provided Interhack with a set of mobile phones that their owners intended to sell. Brad Moore inspected the devices for recoverable data.

Cryptography is a powerful tool and now readily available to help you protect your privacy.

While the amount of recoverable information varied from device to device, results overall showed that information including communications, calendar appointments, call histories, contacts, and business documents.

Simply deleting records from the phone is typically insufficient to prevent the buyer of your phone from being able to retrieve such information. With phones keeping such voluminous and detailed records of our whereabouts and activities, giving a stranger your phone is not unlike selling your file cabinet without first emptying the files.

The good news is that many devices running Android and iOS now are providing the kind of security features long-available on BlackBerry devices: encryption. Use of encryption is a powerful tool not only for keeping information private while you're using the device, but ensuring that later legitimate users of the device do not have illegitimate access to the information there. Even if data are recoverable through a device reset, the data available will be encrypted, unreadable.

Fox 28's segment is available for viewing at