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Android Factory Resets Useless, Study Finds


Recently junked your old smartphone in the second hand market for the sake of next-gen tech? Then you better hope you didn’t sell it to someone too nosy, because your old data can be retrieved from the device.

A new Cambridge study found that user data can be retrieved from second-hand Android devices that have been wiped exclusively with a factory reset. reported. Such data can be recovered even from handsets, regardless of encryption, the researchers said.

While this has been known for some time, the study reiterates the fact that smartphones are extraordinarily difficult to clear of user data.

The study is based off of an examination of 21 second-hand devices running Android software from five manufacturers that had been wiped using the OS’ standard factory reset.

However, the problems existed with third-party data deletion software, such as those offered by antivirus vendors, the researchers said.

The recovery team was able to find data including multimedia files, and login credentials from wiped phones, with many of the handsets yielding the master token used to access Google Account Data, such as Gmail and Google Calendar.

The problem is a result of multiple issues, the most common of these being the inherent difficulty of fully deleting data from flash memory used in smart phones, an issue in which the physical nature of the memory chips is at fault.

Other issues include vendors’ neglect to include necessary drivers or failures due to their modifications of Android for the devices.

The big issue isn’t that devices fail to delete a bulk of the data, it’s that the factory reset fails to delete the master token decryption, meaning that when the device is restored, many of the past-users login details are included as well.

So readers, if you take anything from this article, I sincerely hope that it’s that you remember to find software that can guarantee a full delete. Try doing this by connecting your device to a computer and using software that way, or better yet, pay a trusted wireless carrier, retailer, etc. and request that they conduct a proper, complete wipe of your phone. It may cost you a few dollars at the time, but in the long run I believe that it’s a completely fair compromise.

About Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton
Nick Thornton is a talented freelance writer based in Ottawa. He writes for several blogs and news sources. He has lot's of hobbies, such as reading, writing, exploring various coffee shops and bars across Ottawa, and enjoying live music. His writing is always easy & fun read as he delivers hard hitting news, and only the truth. Contact Nick: