Beware of cyber risks before dumping your old phone

The launch of new smartphones by tech giants Samsung and Apple has some consumers wanting to make the upgrade as soon as they come on the mobile market.

Before making the switch, though, cybersecurity expert Mike Ricotta says users should be aware of potential cyber threats when moving personal information to a new phone.

Ricotta, head of development at the digital agency Blue Fountain Media told that when unloading a phone, buyers can become a “ripe target” for hackers waiting to steal sensitive data.

When getting rid of the old device, “you want to make sure you’ve taken off any personal data, information you don’t want to be sharing with the public,” said Ricotta.

He suggests backing up the phone to an external device. “You want to be sure you can recover data you may want, should it get lost.  External hard drives are something you can keep off-line, much more securely than a cloud server.”

“You want to make sure you’ve taken off any personal data ..."

— Mike Ricotta

If a user has their phone linked to a cloud storage service, they should also be aware of the information that is being kept by the program.

“It's a great service for ensuring you back up important data, but you don't have the ability to take it offline like you do an external device,” said Ricotta.

He says consumers should also look to erase all content and settings on the phone. “You want to clear the phone's hard drive of any data that belongs to you.”

Removing the SIM card is another way to prevent fraud. Essentially a smartcard inside the phone, the SIM lets users keep the phone linked with the service provider’s account.

“If you had purchased a new phone and just gave away your current phone without taking out the SIM card, it would be just like buying a new, empty wallet, and then giving your current wallet away without taking out your license, your money, credit cards,” said Ricotta.