Experts advise users to lock down their data in light of the recent news of a student whose private photos were made public after she sent her iPhone for repair.
In 2016, after a 21-year-old woman brought a claim against Apple, it was discovered that workers had uploaded private, explicit images and videos to the woman’s Facebook account during the repair of her iPhone. According to reports, the company paid the woman millions to end the legal dispute. Many people take this chance when having their phones repaired.
In an email interview, privacy expert Pankaj Srivastava, CEO and founder of management consulting firm PracticalSpeak said that when you hand over your phone for repairs, you are also handing over your entire personal data trove. “Most consumers do not understand that security is only as good as its weakest link. In this scenario, the weakest link could be you as the consumer.”
How Risky Are Repairs?
According to Attila Tomaschek, a researcher at the website ProPrivacy, most places where you’d take your phone for repairs will be trustworthy, so the likelihood that your personal information will be read and misused is relatively low.
It pays to be careful whenever you take your phone in for repairs, Tomaschek continued, because there’s still that slight chance that you’re taking your phone to a place where a dishonest repair tech will snoop on your phone’s data or even steal it.
What To Do Before Taking In Your Phone Or Computer For Repair?
The following precautions should be taken to safeguard your privacy before having your computer or smartphone repaired:
- Data Backup
Although it should be a regular practice, backing up your data should come first before repairing your phone.
Data backup will ensure that you keep all your crucial files during the repair or in the following few steps we advise, even though it doesn’t directly protect you from a privacy invasion.
Most smartphones regularly back up their data to a cloud, like Google Drive. However, ensure you’ve recently backed up the data on your phone. If you do, you risk losing your most recent pictures or files.
We advise deleting any excessively private photos or documents from your computer or phone after backing up your data.
- Encryption Software
After making a complete data backup, you can use encryption software to safeguard critical documents.
Data encryption transforms your files into a format so that only specific user credentials can read and open them. Hopefully, you are the only one with those particular credentials.
The files on your smartphone can also be encrypted. However, the majority of modern smartphones already have encryption.
In other words, your files are secure because only your fingerprint, password, or another form of identification can access them. This isn’t like your computer.
Even though your computer might need a password to pass the login screen, a technician can quickly get around that with the correct information. It’s not as strong as the encryption on your phone.
- Remove Your Sim Card
It might seem strange, but it’s crucial. Your SIM could be abused if it unintentionally falls into the wrong hands. Therefore, make it a habit to remove the SIM card from your phone before giving it to the professionals. Additionally, you can use the SIM card in any other smartphone until you get your phone back. If you do this, you will get all the important calls at that time.
- Remove Security Lock
You must deactivate any PIN, pattern lock, or fingerprint authentication your smartphone may have. By doing this, the technicians fixing your phone will be able to check its status after the problem is resolved. The security locks can be disabled in your device’s settings.
- Don’t Use External Storage
If your smartphone has a micro-sd card slot compatible with it, and if you have a card in the slot, in addition to the SIM card. After that, you must take it out and carry it with the SIM card in a safe place. Please keep it safe because most of your media files will likely be stored on this micro-SD card. Removing any external storage or memory card from your smartphone is always advised. Your memory card may contain sensitive information; if it is lost or damaged by accident, you will have to lose all of your data.
- Reset The Factory Settings
Reset your phone if there are any sensitive files on it. By doing this, you can relax and avoid having your data stolen. However, before resetting your phone, remember to back up your data.
- Disable Factory Reset Protection And Delete Your Google Account
Remember to delete every account you have. Disable the Factory Reset Protection in addition. If you have deleted all your Google accounts from your smartphone, you can turn off the Factory Reset Protection.
- Find Reputed Technician
A competent and certified technician will be fully aware of the safety requirements and know how to deal with potentially dangerous situations. Giving your phone to someone who lacks the necessary skills puts your device at risk.
When you’ve done everything possible to prevent data loss or theft, removed your SIM card and external storage, and taken all other safety measures, you’re ready to hand your phone to a professional for repair. If you have a used phone, you can take it to the seller and the technician.