AVAST Test Results: What People Leave Behind When Selling Their Phone Online

Deleting files is not enough – overwriting data is the only way to remove personal information.

July 9, 2014

2 Min Read


REDWOOD CITY, California, July 8, 2014 – AVAST Software, maker of the most trusted security in the world, easily retrieved personal data from used smartphones sold online, despite consumers deleting their data. From the used devices, AVAST was able to recover more than 40,000 personal photos, emails, text messages, and – in some cases – the identities of the sellers.

The amount of personal data we retrieved from the phones was astounding. We found everything from a filled-out loan form to more than 250 nude selfies,” said Jude McColgan, President of Mobile at AVAST. “We purchased a variety of Android devices from sellers across the U.S. and used readily available recovery software to dig up personal information that was previously on the phones. The take-away is that even deleted data on your used phone can be recovered unless you completely overwrite it.

AVAST analyzed 20 used smartphones whose previous owners had performed a factory reset or a “delete all” operation on their devices. Despite these efforts, AVAST was able to recover the following personal information:

  • More than 40,000 stored photos

  • More than 1,500 family photos of children

  • More than 750 photos of women in various stages of undress

  • More than 250 photos of male nude selfies

  • More than 1,000 Google searches

  • More than 750 emails and text messages

  • More than 250 contact names and email addresses

  • Four previous owners’ identities

  • One completed loan application

More than 80,000 used smartphones are for sale daily online in the U.S. Along with their phones, consumers may not realize they are selling their memories and their identities. Images, emails, and other documents deleted from phones can be exploited for identity theft, blackmail, or for even stalking purposes. Selling your used phone is a good way to make a little extra money, but it’s potentially a bad way to protect your privacy,” added McColgan.

AVAST advises consumers interested in selling their used Android device to first install the free avast! Anti-Theft app and then use the thorough wipe feature to permanently delete and overwrite all files on the device, thus making personal data irretrievable. The avast! Anti-Theft app is available for free on Google Play:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avast.android.at_play


AVAST Software (www.avast.com), maker of the most trusted mobile and PC security in the world, protects more than 200 million people, mobile devices, and computers with its security applications. In business for over 25 years, AVAST is one of the pioneers in the computer security business, with a portfolio that includes free antivirus for PC, Mac, and Android, to premium suites and services for both consumers and business. In addition to being top-ranked by consumers on popular download portals worldwide, AVAST is certified by, among others, VB100, AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, OPSWAT, ICSA Labs, and West Coast Labs. 

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