Cell Phone Security

Thursday, September 7th 2006, 3:13 pm
By: News On 6

Cell phones contain all sorts of personal and work-related information. When you decide to get a new phone, you may give away your old one, sell it or even donate it to charity. Whoever ends up with it, also ends up with all that information.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says cell phones no longer just make calls. They take pictures, play music, operate GPS, send and receive emails and surf the web. They are mobile computers. They are a huge warehouse of data, data you don't want in someone else's hands.

Gavin Manes with OK Digital Forensics: "Computers, cell phones, fax machines, cars, anything, laptops, you hit delete, it doesn't mean it's gone. You're just making it harder for someone to recover."

Recovering that information is Gavin Mane's specialty. His company recovers all kinds of information from different devices, for employers who are checking up on employees to lawyers looking for evidence. "In most phones today, there's this little card, you pull it out and put it in the reader and then, I've got all your information."

So, hitting delete doesn't get rid of your information, how about smashing the phone with a hammer? Even that, won't protect you, although it does make it a lot harder and more expensive to retrieve your secrets. "The bombings set off with cell phones, they put these phones back together and booted them up after they exploded."

A company recently purchased 10 cell phones from eBay and found all kinds of information on them, evidence of an affair, corporate secrets and financial data.

The problem will continue to exist since most people get a new cell phone every 18 months to two years and while companies are busy creating the latest and greatest gadgets, security isn't their top priority.

The first step to protecting yourself is realizing all the data that exists on your phone; the second step is never letting that data out of your control.

The Governor of Illinois recently wrote a letter to the FCC asking the agency to require cell phone companies to completely delete a customer's information so private and sensitive information doesn't end up in the wrong hands. A handful of companies’ plan to soon offer secure delete features or encryption for cell phones that would provide better protection.