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What Your Old Mobile Phone Says About You

from the perhaps-a-lot... dept

It’s been well known for years that discarded computers and hard drives often reveal the secrets of its former owner. However, now that mobile phones are becoming more like pocket-sized computers, it’s worth recognizing that discarded mobile phones may reveal just as much. The question, though, is how much does it really reveal. The AP piece here is clearly a bit of PR for a company that does mobile security. They went out and bought a bunch of used phones and dug up the info that was on them. They admit, however, that most of the phone owners did at least try to hide the content on the phone, but with some software they could recover it. As for what you should do if you have sensitive info on your phone? “I’d run over the phone. Maybe give it an acid bath.” Now you know.

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Comments on “What Your Old Mobile Phone Says About You”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Works for Ex-Girlfriends too

“I’d run over the phone. Maybe give it an acid bath.”

that is sage advice for ex-girlfriends if they know too much about you too. Especially if she’s a mistress.

ON-Topic however, that’s a little strange advice to run over it or give it an acid bath… There are legal implications in both of those suggestions.

If I remember correctly, most states have mandatory disposal requirements for things containing lead, mercury and other such lovely substances we dont want in our landfills>water.

Not to mention not many folks actually have the acid available to them.. Seems if you try and buy acid in decent quantity nowadays, you get marked as a terrorist.

gruffman says:

Re: Works for Ex-Girlfriends too

Just pull the battery out after you delete all the entries in your phone using the software in the phone. Next donate it to the old folks home in the local area. Unlike the poor folks who will just pawn it or something, they will most likely use the phones to call their kids. Old folks usually are not so nasty as the younger more technically nasty and savy types hanging out on the steetcorners.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why not?

I understand if you didnt RTFA and still want to post, but can you at least read the synopsis? What, every person that works at this halfway house for technophiles is above suspicion? Come on. The entire article is about how used phones can be a security risk and you suggest “Why don’t you donate them?”

OK, here’s my reply:

Article states “Old Toys are dangerous for kids.”

Mark replies “Why not donate them to poor kids?”

MEopi says:


Isn’t donating to the poor like donating muffin bottoms to homeless shelters?

*Apologizes for Seinfeld Reference and makes a real point.

Maybe I’m behind the times but I don’t refer to a palm pilot, pda, smart phone, all in one, treo, black berry, digital life, as a phone. To be honest most of those advanced users don’t use the phone function all that much so it’s hard to call it a phone. Yes, those devices have sensitive info on them and I’m surprised it was legal to resell some of those devices (thanks sarbanes oxley) but I think using the term cell phone is a bit Mccarthisc, since most Cell phones (read phones that are cellular and are only phones and IM devices) don’t have that much on them.

*Apologizes for MCCarthy Reference

Anonymous Coward says:

Wouldn’t removing the SIM cards/Memory sticks/ etc and destroying those accomplish as much? If we’re talking REALLY old phones, sure, destroy the phone. But seriously, there’s a chip… that holds the info… on your phone… I haven’t had a phone with wholly built in memory for several years (and I am not carrying an advanced phone)…

PhysicsGuy says:

Sensitive info?

it’s called a blowtorch… i know for hard drives that data can almost always be recovered unless it happened to get in the way of an immensly hot heat source, hell, with *supposedly* a little quantum mechanical engineering you could rewrite over a sector with arbitrary bits a baagillion times and due to a “magnetic fingerprint” the data could still be recovered.

Dan says:

Suspect Study?

So nobody else that reads this blog gets suspicious whenever a “security company” releases a “study” related to “insecure devices” that their products make more secure?
Note that while the AP article they link to about their “study” says that “a lot of info is easily erased,” there is no indication in the article that any of the sellers actually thought to try to clear the memory on the devices.
Good info to know/reminder for those who keep everything on their phone, I suppose, but it just reeks to me of a publicity stunt. But then I’m pretty cynical.

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