January 25

7 Sources of Data Breaches You’ll Never Hear About: Your Phone

Smart phones are now portable computers which just happen to make calls. Licensed from Stock Exchange.

This post is the first in a series about preventable data breaches. Most Americans have received a letter, telling them that their personal information has been breached. But there are many breaches you’ll never hear about, and many of them are right under your nose. The first source we’ll explore is Your Phone and Personal Computing Device.

Remember when cell phones were telephones? Those days are long gone. The current generation of smart phones are powerful computing devices which just happen to also make phone calls.

Your personal computing devices perform almost all of the functions of a laptop computer. Smart phones, iPads, Kindles, and other devices are notoriously easy to lose, and store gigabytes of files, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, digital photos, address books, and email attachments. Because of the wealth of personal information on a cell phone, most people would rather lose their wallets, and nearly all respondents to a 2009 survey said they would be “devastated” if they lost their phone.

Upgrading your phone can be as risky as losing it. Some people donate their old phones to charity or sell them on Ebay, and experts warn that personal information on the phone could easily be mined and re-sold. Periodically search your cell phone for personal information, and make sure that you digitally shred the entire contents of your mobile device before you get rid of it.


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  1. That’s a good question. The short answer is that I am not aware of an easy way to shred individual files on mobile computing devices. I have heard of a few utilities that will shred an entire phone; but the tools tend to be rather blunt. When you plug your smart phone into your computer as an external drive, Identity Finder (shameless plug) will search for sensitive files on the drive, and then let you shred, redact, etc. It’s more precise at finding individual offending files than the old DOS equivalent of typing “format c:” on your phone, but may not integrate with your phone’s OS.

    Anyone else aware of specific tools or utilities for iPhone, Droid, iPad, or even MP3 players?

  2. Fortunately I have multiple OS’s to choose from. I’m exchanging a phone today, so I’ll put Identity Finder to use and try to sterilize it before sending it back.

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