Mobile security software provider Trust Digital recently performed an experiment. Company engineers bought ten mobile devices on eBay and looked to see how much of the previous owner’ information was still left on them.
As it turns out, they found a very large amount.
These devices yielded nearly 27,000 pages of personal and corporate data. This included personal banking and tax information, corporate sales activity notes, corporate client records, product roadmaps, contact address books, phone and Web logs, calendar records, personal and business correspondence, computer passwords, user medication information, and other private, competitive, or potentially damaging material.
This information was retained in the flash memory of the devices because of users’ failure to perform the advanced hard reset required to delete the data.
A Partial List of Ways to Completely Erase a Handheld or Smartphone
The steps that need to be taken to completely remove all the data stored on a mobile device vary from operating system to operating system, and even from device to device.
For Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile 2003 SE and before, a standard hard reset will clear out the memory. The same is true of Palm OS devices made more than a couple of years ago. They don’t have non-volatile memory, so hard resetting them will clear everything out. Letting the battery go dead will accomplish the same thing.
Palm, Inc. gives detailed instructions on its web site for zeroing out some of its models with NVFS memory: the Tungsten T5, Treo 650, and LifeDrive.
One of the features of the new Microsoft Service Feature Pack is the ability to remotely erase smartphones that have the MSFP installed.
Beyond this, though, there’s no comprehensive list of instructions for completely erasing mobile devices. Any suggestions people have for accomplishing this can be posted in Brighthand’s forums. (Tap on the “Discuss” link at the top or bottom of this article.)