When disposing of old technology — such as old phones, computers, printers, and smartwatches — it's essential to remember to clear the stored Wi-Fi network information. That's because this data is often unprotected and easy to retrieve from discarded gadgets, according to a new article on the dangers of leaky Wi-Fi access from Kaspersky.
Information from Wi-Fi is frequently stolen from discarded technology by threat actors. Criminals first determine who owned the device: If it was sold, a buyer knows who it came from; if it's recycled, contact details may still be left on the device. If the device is thrown away, it's likely that it was thrown somewhere close to where the device was last used. Threat actors can even access and steal Wi-Fi networks after a factory reset through clues left behind, including the name of the Wi-Fi network or the name of the phone (for example, Jane's iPhone).
When a Wi-Fi network is breached, a threat actor can then hack onto any device connected to it. Besides spamming or DDoS attacks, the owner of the hacked device can be subjected to slower internet, a leaked IP address on denylists, and even face blocking by their ISP in severe cases.
The best way to prevent a situation in which one's Wi-Fi network is leaked is first to reset and wipe the setting from the device before handing it over. Then double check to make sure that everything is truly gone. After this, it's best to change the password on the Wi-Fi network and update the settings on all other devices connected to the network.