Monday, September 01, 2014

Fascinating Article About How Avast was Able to Recover Vast Amounts of Data from Phones it Purchased From eBay

"Introduction to Android forensics (aka CSI: Android)
Digital forensics is a branch of science which deals with the recovery and investigation of materials found in digital devices. Forensics is usually mentioned in connection with crime, vaguely similar to criminal investigations on TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NCIS. However, several experiments (1, 2), including this one, use methods of digital forensics as proof that people do not pay attention to what happens with their personal data when replacing their digital devices (computers, hard drives, cell phones). In this blog post series we will reveal what we managed to dig out from supposedly erased devices. The sensitive information includes pictures (even very private ones!), videos, contacts, SMS messages, Facebook chat logs, Google searches, GPS location coordinates, and more.
What happens to the file when it is “deleted”
When people want to delete a file, most will use the standard features that come with their operating system. After it’s done, they consider the unwanted data to be gone forever. However, this is not true. When a file is deleted, the operating system merely deletes the corresponding pointers in the file table and marks the space occupied by the file as free. The reality is that the file is not deleted and the data it contained still remains on the drive. With regular usage of the drive, the remaining data will sooner or later be overwritten with different data. The same thing happens on your PC.
The following screenshots show the scenario. We used the program FTK Imager to mount the image of a partition containing user data. The first figure shows a [root] directory followed by [unallocated space]. Although all the sensitive files were deleted in the regular way, something still remained in unallocated space. In this particular example, we managed to dump 251 blocks of unallocated data and to recover interesting messages, for example from a Facebook chat. The seller of this HTC Sensation cell phone thought that his personal was cleared out, but the figures below show that he/she was tragically mistaken..."
Here are excerpts from the second article:
"Tens of thousands of Americans sell themselves online every day
The Internet has become a virtual flea market, with online consumer-to-consumer sites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist selling millions of products every day. Used smartphones are a popular sales item on eBay – more than 80,000 people list their phones for sale each day. It seems like a smart way to make some extra money, but AVAST has found out that many fail to protect their identity in the process. 
AVAST recovers an abundance of personal data from used smartphones
Most sellers delete all of their personal data prior to selling their used devices… or so they think. We purchased 20 used Android phones off eBay and used simple and easily available recovery software to restore deleted files. The amount of data we were able to retrieve was astonishing and proves that simply deleting is not enough.
Our analysts found the following:
  • 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 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner’s manhood
  • 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..."

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