Zionsville Times Sentinel

Community News Network

July 14, 2014

Why it's basically impossible to delete those naked selfies you text

If you're selling an old Android smartphone on an online auction site, you could be giving away rather more than you intend to, according to a recent investigation by anti-malware company Avast.

Going through phones that had supposedly been "factory reset," the company's researchers were able to view photos taken by the phone's original owners. In addition to the usual harmless photos of the family cat were naked selfies that the original owners would never have wanted anyone to see.

What's more, the researchers were able to do this simply by using a range of free smartphone forensic tools that are easy to use by technical enthusiasts as well as professional forensics experts.

How it works

Electronic data, stored either on a solid state drive or a traditional hard disk, persist even when we think we have wiped the storage device. Many readers will naturally assume that when you delete a file, it has been removed from your phone or computer.

The way it actually works is that the link (or reference) to the file is deleted, but the original file is still there - so that inappropriate selfie is still in your phone's storage even if you can no longer see it in the photo browser. What's worse is that, unless the file is fully overwritten, you may find that the dodgy pictures remain for some considerable time.

The issue spotted by Avast is that the "factory settings" feature of some older Android phones does not overwrite every "bit" of data; instead, it simply removes the file references.

Which phones are affected?

Based on their research, it is only Android devices that are affected. iPhones encrypt their storage, which adds a layer of strong security. So even if you could see that the data existed, you couldn't see what it was as you won't have access to the original security keys.

It would seem that Windows and Blackberry phones are not affected either. Researchers may yet discover issues, but as it stands there are no concerns.

How to protect your data

The best advice I can give if you intend to sell your Android phone is to first consider carefully how you may have used the device. If there are - or were - any pictures or data on the phone that you do not want to fall into the hands of others, then keep the phone, and do not sell or give it away.

There are also ways that you can encrypt your Android, and this is a technique worth considering.

But the only truly secure way to destroy the data is to smash the phone into little pieces, then throw it into a fire.

Personally, I prefer to store only impersonal and chaste data on my phone.



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

Order Times Sentinel photos


Photos from August 2014

Facebook
Twitter Updates
AP Video
Japan Landslide Rescuers Struggle in Heavy Rain Raw: Severe Floods, Fire Wrecks Indiana Homes Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Ukraine Hamm Talks Emmy Chances Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Raw: Egypt Bus Crash Kills at Least 33 Two Bodies Found in Adjacent Yards Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Rescue Efforts Suspended at Japan Landslide Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Raw: Smaller Marches in Ferguson Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer Ky. Firefighters Hurt in Ice Bucket Challenge Federal Investigation Will Look at Use of Force Community Deals With Michael Brown Aftermath US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide