A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego analyzed the residue left behind on smartphone screens from previous users. The study analyzed the phones of 30 participants, and took swabs from four areas of the devices as well as eight spots on the respondent’s hand.
Through this analysis, researchers were able to identify if the user drinks coffee, what type of cosmetics they use, if they wear sunscreen, if they take certain medications and other personal factors. Physical residue is not the only way professionals can identify past owners of devices. Along with the chemical makeup users leave on phone screens, the data we store in devices can also leave a certain type of residue- residual data.
Residual data stays behind after a factory reset. While a device may appear clear of personal data, traces of photos, emails, messages and call logs can still be identified with sophisticated software. If a malicious source gains access to residual data, they not only can identify the past user, but can potentially gain access to app credentials, emails and messages. An unauthorized source gaining access to this type of personal data not only is an inconvenience, but can put financial, health and other information at a risk for fraud.
Residual data poses a major threat when users choose to resell or trade-in older devices. To avoid any future users accessing old files and credentials, consumers should not only perform a factory reset, but choose a reseller that uses top-notch data erasure practices.
HOBI International, Inc. is an R2, RIOS, ISO 14001 and WBE certified mobile asset manager. HOBI uses NIST approved data erasure methods to ensure complete client information security, and eliminates any residual data risks.