Nov 28, 2012 1:30 AM by Eric Ross

Smart phone security: How well does your phone protect personal data?

COLORADO SPRINGS- In the world of advancing technology, just how safe is your cell phone?

If you have a smart phone, you know it can hold a lot of personal and private information.

Even if you believe you've taken all the right precautions to keep that data safe, there's one particular type of cell phone that fails at protecting your sensitive information.

"These smart phones that we have are not phones anymore, they are computers," Gerrit Padgam, a security consultant said.

They are almost as powerful as computers because of their ability to store everything from music to games, to more personal files like photos and banking information.

But there's just one alarming fact:

"Fewer than 5-percent of people have some form of security on their mobile devices," Marian Merritt with Norton Security said.

The real hazard on smart phones are the apps you download.

It's already been proven that some apps contain hidden viruses and malicious software that steal your files.

The worst part---you probably have no idea it's happened.

So which type of phone is more prone to getting viruses?

Is it the Android or iPhone?

"They are both great phones but I can't really comment on which one I think is more secure," Tom Franks with Best Buy said.

No cell phone store would weigh in either in fear of losing business, so we took our questions to Gerrit Padgham, a security consultant in Denver.

"Any system can get a virus," he said.

But Padgham admits they tend to be more common on Android phones because of the open architecture that encourages people to write software.

"Anyone can make an app for Android and hide it so that it looks legit and try and convince users to download it," he said.

It's a bit more difficult to pass a malicious app through the iTunes store because not only do you have to pay a subscription fee, all apps are screened by Apple before being posted.

Google does not go through that extensive process.

While personal data can be stolen through "phony" apps, the time when your information is most vulnerable comes when you're selling your smart phone back to one of the many retailers offering "cash back" trade-in programs.




"If you bring the phone to us, you don't have to worry about wiping it ahead of time," Franks said. "That's something our professionals will do for you. They'll take it and make sure all of your personal content is off of there and is completely wiped and restored back to factory default."

But Padgham says be careful, especially if you're trading in an Android phone because of a special micro SD card inside them.

"The data is still there," Padgham said. "It's never deleted."

He even showed News 5 how easy it was to retrieve deleted photos from a micro SD card.

He snapped a picture of an object on his desk and then deleted it.

Minutes later, he took the chip out, plugged it into the computer, and was able to retrieve the image.

Although he used a special program to retrieve the image, he says anyone can download various programs which will do the same thing for free.

He recommends all users keep their micro SD card and either throw it away, or use it in their next smart phone.

Best Buy says all sales associates accepting trade-ins give consumers back their micro SD cards.




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