Planning to sell your old smartphone? Wipe it clean to protect data
Discarding old gadgets, especially those with personal data without taking proper measures to clean them can be risky
New Delhi: Selling an old smartphone, laptop, tablet or hard drive has become much more lucrative.
Exchange plans on old gadgets during online sales on Amazon.in and Flipkart.com and stores like Cashify, which buy old gadgets directly from users and pay them instantly, are providing users much better deals than what local scrap dealers would offer.
However, discarding old gadgets, especially those with personal data without taking proper measures to clean them can be risky.
According to a recent report by Kaspersky Labs, an individual’s personal data can be sold on the dark web (the part of the internet which cannot be seen by most users since it is not indexed by search engines) for as low as ₹3,500.
“For an individual, unsafe disposal can lead to compromise of private information like pictures, contacts, messages, chats, passwords, identity documents and financial details. This can cause damages like online identity theft or misuse of digital identity, hacks, financial loss and embarrassments,” cautions Sunil Chandna, CEO of Stellar, a leading data recovery company.
To assess the risk of data theft on second-hand devices, researchers at Stellar purchased multiple hard disk drives from an online store that bought and sold second hand devices in India and found that majority of drives were formatted but not wiped clean.
Using a free DIY (do it yourself) data recovery software, the researchers were able to recover huge amounts of data contained in files.
It is safe to sell old devices like smartphones or laptops only once they have been properly cleaned of important data, which one does not want to be exposed.
There are also various software tools available that can completely erase the data stored on these devices, suggests Sanjay Katkar, joint managing director and chief technology officer at Quick Heal Technologies.
Stellar’s Chandna concurs that resetting a device is not a fool-proof method to permanently erase data from the device storage media.
Certified and secure professional data erasure tools like BitRaser can erase data on a smartphone, computer, server, memory card or a hard drive completely and permanently, he adds.
These tools are designed to ensure complete sanitization of data beyond recovery.
“No strategy is fool-safe except for physically destroying the device. Given that data may still be recoverable with the right tools, it’s important to back up data, deregister all user accounts and wipe the device clean,” warns Prabhu Ram, head-industry intelligence group, Cyber Media Research.
According to Kaspersky Labs, wiping not just deletes the data, but also overwrites old files with random data multiple times.
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