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Second-Hand eBay Phones Identifying Users

Highly sensitive information is still inside 20% of secondhand mobiles bought from eBay, including private photos according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire found that 19% of a hundred phones bought from eBay contained personally identifiable information.

According to Dr Olga Angelopoulou, a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the Cyber Security Centre of the University of Hertfordshire, the research focused on a range of phones from new to old.

Of the phones examined, 28 of them could not be imaged to retrieve any data ‘as they were incompatible with the tools or were not functioning’.

However, for more recent devices, the researches were able to retrieve a person’s identity from a smartphone that was not factory reset.

Fortunately of the phones purchased from eBay, 53% of them were indeed reset to factory settings, showing that at least half of us are conscious of the data left on our devices.

Unfortunately, 19% of them still contained data from previous owners, with 17% with personally identifiable information.

Phones were purchased between January and June 2018.

A similar study in partnership with Comapritech investigated secondhand memory devices, including USB drives and SD cards, with over half of them still containing remnant data from previous owners.

Fortunately, ‘modern smartphones and tablets offer several advantages related to communication and accessibility to their users,’ said Dr Olga.

‘The low level of effort it takes a non-technology or computer literate user to reset their device to the factory settings is indicative of the results from the study’.

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