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It’s not enough to reset an Android phone before selling it


I’m not a tinfoil conspiracy theorist by any means, but smartphone data privacy has been a concern of mine for some time. You can never be safe enough when it comes to data security and privacy, and there’s no better source of information about anyone’s online (and to some extent, offline) life than their smartphone.

Look, I don’t hold state secrets, nor am I influential enough to overthrow governments, but I don’t like the idea of ​​someone having access to my data without my knowledge. When I’m online, I follow all the usual security precautions, like using a VPN, ad blockers and trackers on Android and Chrome, and more. However, there is one piece of the puzzle that remains a wild card. What if someone had access to my phone? Or worse, what if someone could extract the data from my phone after resetting it to factory settings and selling it? Hollywood crime thrillers certainly make this look pretty easy.

Here’s the thing: Performing a factory reset on your Android phone is usually enough security for most, but is it enough to thwart even the most stubborn hackers, or uh… governments? Well, conspiracy theories aside, I promise I’m not paranoid. I know the chances of anyone bothering to bring my phone into a million dollar clean room are negligible. However, as a child of the 90s, safety hygiene is burned into my brain. For example, I run a nail gun through a hard drive that is being discarded and zero out old flash drives or SSDs before throwing them away.

You can never be too careful when it comes to your data, and lately I’ve been following the same philosophy: securely wiping data from my phone when upgrading to a new Android phone or when of their transmission to a parent.

Can data be recovered after factory reset on Android phone?

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

The short answer to this question is no. The slightly longer answer? Probably not. Although social engineering and keyloggers remain the most common way to access your phone, extracting data from your device is not impossible, even after a factory reset.

All modern phones come with encryption enabled from the start, and simply adding a complex password to the lock screen adds a significant level of security. However, there is a common misconception that encryption and security are a guarantee against data theft. Even the most advanced security is really just a deterrent, so much so that the amount of resources required to breach it is too high for most hackers to deploy. Think of it as a fortified wall around your house: you can build it high enough, but someone with a tall enough ladder can still climb it.

Security is like a fortified wall around your house: you can build it high enough, but someone with a tall enough ladder can still climb it.

Modern Android phones use a type of encryption called file-based encryption. Deployed starting with Android 9.0, file-based encryption protects files in the user data partition and system partition separately. Each file is independently encrypted using a unique key. In fact, all user data is protected by keys generated using a combination of hardware-specific keys and user credentials, such as, for example, PIN or password unlocking. gesture. Meanwhile, since the system partition is secured using device-specific keys, file-based encryption will allow your phone to boot, as usual, to the lock screen . This means you can receive phone calls or activate alarms even without logging in. Try it: If you restart your phone and don’t enter your PIN, any received phone calls will not display the associated contact details. It’s file-based encryption that’s at play, protecting your personal data.

However, as secure as it is, there is no such thing as complete security in the computing world, and file-based encryption on Android has been broken in the past. Although recovering the master key from RAM requires literal surgery on a smartphone, it is not outside the realm of possibility for a sufficiently dedicated person and has been achieved. Successful attempts have also been made to hack Samsung’s secure enclave chip to move the phone from the BFU stage (before first unlock) to the AFU stage (after first unlock), which decrypts the partition user and makes it easier to empty files.

Recovering data from a reset Android device is technically possible, but very difficult, making the average user an unlikely victim.

Assuming you have already reset your phone, it becomes more complicated. Since the encryption key is linked to your password, the phone automatically resets the key after a factory reset. A savvy hacker can always clear phone storage, perform data analysis and extract files. However, these files would still be encrypted and reading them would be virtually impossible. In fact, Android uses standard AES-256 encryption, which as of today remains intact. So yes, your data can be recovered, but it would be unreadable.

However, established tools like Cellebrite, marketed to security agencies and governments, are known to have additional exploits to break your phone’s security and extract information. Cellebrite claims it can access BFU and AFU modes, decrypt third-party data, and even extract a phone’s entire file system for deeper data analysis. Since Cellebrite can break BFU and AFU encryption, it is not excluded that it can also generate decryption keys for existing data.

That said, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll likely have bigger problems to worry about if the government tries to hack your phone. For most users, a standard system reset should be sufficient.

How to Completely Erase an Android Phone Before Selling It

Secure Wipe Out app

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

If you’ve been successful so far, you might be thinking that you absolutely don’t need to worry about your data being stolen once you factory reset your phone. While this statement is largely true, taking extra steps to secure your data is never a bad idea. Information security is preventative in nature, and ensuring that your private data has been securely erased is a simple and essential step in ensuring it.

The old-school method of writing gibberish binary data to storage remains the most effective in ensuring that your data is unreadable.

It turns out the solution is quite simple and the same one we’ve used for decades to secure hard drives. Zeroing the storage on your phone is a sure way to ensure that it would be gibberish even if someone managed to extract data from your phone. The Android Play Store has several apps capable of performing this task, but I’ve had good luck with the Secure Wipe Out app for performing multiple large-scale binary data writes to the NAND.

While a standard file deletion simply marks a particular file as deleted, it usually remains on disk until another file is overwritten on it. Writing tens or hundreds of gigabytes of meaningless zero and one binary data to the phone’s storage ensures that any remaining personal data on your phone’s memory will be overwritten. The process may take a few hours if you have a significant amount of storage on your phone, but it ensures that your phone has been securely erased and is worth it for the peace of mind it provides. Of course, you should always factory reset your phone after cleaning it.

So, is it enough to factory reset your Android phone before selling it?

Android Factory Reset – Photo 1

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

While it’s unlikely that anyone reading this article would be a potential target for such an attack, it’s still a good idea to take precautionary measures to protect your data in case someone decides to mess around with your phone. A factory reset on a modern Android phone is very effective in protecting you against data theft. However, I think exercising caution and running a secure erase program for a few hours before handing in your phone for an upgrade to an upcoming Android phone is a small price to pay to ensure your personal data stays personal.

Yes, it is possible to remotely wipe an Android phone using the Find My Device utility. Go to android.com/find and log in to your Google account. Select the lost device and select the option to erase phone. This will permanently delete all data from the phone as long as it is connected to the Internet.

Factory resetting Android turns off Find My Device and you will no longer be able to locate your phone.

Although you can’t recover photos from phone after a factory reset, as long as backups are enabled in Google Photos, your photos should be safe in the cloud.

Yes, it is possible to factory reset an Android phone without password using the recovery menu. Press and hold the power button and volume down button for ten seconds. This will restart your phone and launch you into recovery mode. Navigate into recovery mode using volume buttons and select wipe data option. This will reset your Android phone to factory settings.


Gn tech

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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