Avast, one of the leaders in security software, has what might be bad news for those of you looking to sell or trade in your old Android smartphone. It is always recommended that you run Android’s factory data reset option before getting rid of your phone, which is supposed to wipe all data and settings. Unfortunately that might not be the case.
Avast purchased 20 Android smartphones from eBay. They were able to recover more than 40,000 photos (250 were nude male selfies), 750 emails and text messages, 250 contacts, the identities of four of the previous phone owners, and one completed loan application. According to Jude McColgan, Avast mobile division president, the factory reset only cleans your phone “at the application layer.”
Now before you go thinking that Avast used some sort of trickery, apparently that wasn’t the case. McColgan said the team used “fairly generic, publicly available,” off-the-shelf digital forensics software such as a drive-imaging program called FTK Imager.
Of course Avast is in the business of making money so you know they are going to offer a solution that uses one of their products, and they did. Their report states that their Android security app offers a deletion tool. Interestingly enough, it might not be the complete answer. They only said that it does a better job than Android’s factory reset option. Does that mean that you will still have traces of data even after using Avast’s application? Most likely, but I guess there will be less data available to anyone snooping.
Does this make you more leery to sell your next phone on eBay or Craigslist?