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Selling used Android phones poses huge identity theft risk, expert says

Dan Graziano
March 30th, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Android users who are looking to sell their old devices should be wary of the possible consequences. McAfee identity theft researcher Robert Siciliano warned that personal data from Android devices is not completely removed after a user activates the built-in wipe option, The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday. “What’s really scary is even if you follow protocol, the data is still there,” Siciliano said. If you have a BlackBerry or Apple device, Siciliano said your data can be fully deleted by following the manufacturer’s directions. As for smartphones running the Android operating system and computers running Windows XP, Siciliano recommends that people don’t bother with selling them at all. “Put it in the back of a closet, or put it in a vise and drill holes in the hard drive, or if you live in Texas take it out into a field and shoot it,” he said. “You don’t want to sell your identity for 50 bucks.” To test the security of various platforms, Siciliano purchased 30 smartphones and computers from Craigslist. The researcher was able to access personal data from 15 of the 30 devices through his own hacking efforts and the help of a forensic expert. The data obtained included bank account information, Social Security numbers, child support documents and credit card account log-ins.

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