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50% of Second-Hand Mobile Phones Contain Personal Information

Mon 18 Oct, 2010 // Firstnumber Team

It has been revealed that many consumers selling on their old phones are unknowingly distributing highly sensitive or personal data onto the phone's new owner. Residual information is being overlooked by ex-owners to the extent that the recipients of the mobile devices are presented with data ranging from intimate images, to credit card details.

The findings were the outcome of a survey carried out by Disklabs, a group of mobile and forensic experts. According to the research approximately 60% of 50 phones bought over eBay contained private information.

The most concerning and common issue encountered was the existence of personal security information such as home addresses, PIN numbers, and credit card details. It was reported that 9 of the 50 handsets contained pornographic material, while video and calendar data also remained on 9 of the mobile devices.

Simon Steggles, director of Disklabs, warned consumers that the reliance on the new owners of the phone to remove any unsavoury data is the worst possible course of action. Furthermore, Mr Steggles insisted that the safest means of eradicating any unwanted info is a factory reset. Simply deleting SMS messages or photos is often insufficient for content clearance purposes.

This state of affairs has become increasingly notable due to the rise in attractive trade-in deals, and the general evolution in mobile phone technology. The increased proliferation of smartphone devices has enhanced and complicated the various means by which content can be stored, as well as a heightened diversity of media options available.

Furthermore, the growing demand for smartphones has resulted in a marked turnaround of mobile phone devices; people are rapidly ditching their handsets for the latest piece of tech gadgetry.

Elaborating on the idea of the rise in data accessibility, a senior security adviser at Trend Micro, Rik Ferguson, argued that data is now “more portable, more accessible, more widely disseminated and more numerous than ever before...”. Ferguson believes that a consumer society in which personal information and intellectual property must be dealt with in a far more secure and responsible manner. Ferguson proposes this solution:

“What would be ideal is some sort of technology where you as an end user would be able to assign the right to use, copy or distribute information about yourself to people of your own choosing.”

Despite the obvious need to be pro-active in the campaign to protect our private details, it seems that consumers will not be willing to be burdened with the extra responsibility of making sure that data they have actually deleted, is not passed on to third parties.

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