Published On: Tue, Jun 28th, 2016

Three methods to prevent hackers from recovering data from your old phone


With mobile operating systems constantly emerging with newer features, each version of the operating system requires optimal hardware to run on. New operating systems tend to lag on older smartphone hardware and upgrading a phone’s hardware is not possible. The maximum possibility is to upgrade your storage, but many phones, for instance the iPhone, does not offer a micro SD card slot. So what do you do? Replace it with an upgraded new generation smartphone and dump / sell the older one.

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So what do you do when you want to get rid of your old phone? One simple answer anyone would give is ‘factory reset it’. Well, though you should do it, simply factory resetting the phone will not ensure that your data is completely wiped off.

If you did not know this by now, then you should. A smarpthone can be easily unformatted and data can be recovered by using some third-party recovery software. All this can be done on almost any smartphone out there and data on the phone recovered in less than a day. So if you have some really sensitive data on your old smartphone, you could end up in trouble if it falls in the wrong hands.

Either you keep your old phone with you forever, or ensure that it is recycled beyond recovery. However, this is a loss to you. So how do you safeguard your data? There are three ways you can ensure that your sensitive, private and confidential data does not reach wrong hands.

Encrypt your phone: Every smartphone has an option to encrypt its data contents. This is one of the strongest methods of preventing data recovery on a smartphone. Encrypting the data usually scrambles the information contained in it and locks it with a special key, which is impossible to obtain. The key is your password and no data can be recovered without it. You can find the settings under the security tab in your phone’s settings. Enable it, let the phone start encrypting the data within and then you can do a factory reset after that. In this way, even if the data is recovered by some criminal, he or she will not be able to decrypt it without a password.


Overwrite the phone’s storage with unwanted data: This is another way to ensure that your old data is unrecoverable. When you delete or factory reset your phone, the data physically stays intact on the memory chip and only the information in the index area is wiped off. Recovery software hunt for the data physically existing on the storage and save it to an external storage. In order to securely get rid of this physical data, it is best to overwrite the area with worthless stuff. Doing this is simple. Run a factory reset on the phone, then simply setup the device without any account. Now start the camera and select the settings of the video to the maximum. Simply start recording a video and make sure that the camera is facing the floor or is masked with a small black tape. Record the video till the storage is completely full. This way, the older data is overwritten with a black or unwanted video. Other ways that you can adopt is to fill the storage with some worthless junk files. Plug in your phone to a PC and start copying some data on it and fill the storage completely. You can fill in some cat videos, or photos to amuse and irritate the hacker if he tried to recover your data.

The final method is to repeat the processes above: To ensure double security on your data, simply repeat the processes above for a few times.

If you follow the above procedures, you can safely give away your old smartphone for reuse. Sell it or hand it over to your friends with a piece of mind.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology