I’ve been researching data wiping and security for several electrical recycling companies in the UK for the last five years, and one of the biggest concerns within the field was when software used by the police called forensic data retrieval was officially made available to the general public.
Software like Oxygen Forensic and AccessData allows anyone to recover data from phones and other mobile devices even after it has been deleted or undergone a factory reset.
For those that are unaware, 99 percent of all handsets sold to recycling companies are reused, not recycled in the “conventional” context, making phone recycling a prime target for hackers using forensic data retrieval software. Here are the more concerning of the things that can be recovered from your phone using FDR software:
1. Images and videos
Even if you take a quick photo and delete it immediately after, along with all your other pictures and videos, it can be recovered.
What most people don’t know is that when you delete information off your phone or undergo a factory reset, the data itself is not being deleted, it still remains in areas of the flash chip called solid state memory. Factory resets only destroy the paths to the data. This obviously allows forensic software users to re-establish their own pathways and retrieve the data.
A YouGov poll showed 26 percent of people (in the UK, at least) believe that manually deleting a piece of data completely removes it from the device, whereas 37 percent believe a factory reset is enough (neither will fully remove personal data).
A full removal of personal data is not possible using a device’s in-built factory reset or by re-flashing the operating system.