Can I protect the data on my broken phone?
We try to make sure everyone knows the things they can do to make sure they know how to keep their personal data safe on an Android phone. What you do with the information is up to you, exactly as it should be. Only you know how valuable you think your personal information is.
Sometimes that goes to the extreme. Steve, a regular Android Central reader, has an awesome question: What to do with a broken phone to keep your data private?
It's not what you might think — Steve dropped and busted his no-warranty unlocked Xperia Z3 and shattered the screen. During the process of tearing it open (often a difficult thing) other parts were damaged and Steve gave in and bought a new phone. But he has a phone in a box that worked without a display before he took it apart, along with the parts needed to fix it. That's not garbage and plenty of people would happily put it back together and have a new-to-them phone. The problem is the storage on the phone is filled with his personal stuff.
Sometimes broken is temporary and a new part or two is all that's needed.
This is tough. Anyone who would take the time and has the know how to put it back together and running now has a phone in their hands with all of your data and signed in with your Google account. And who knows what else a person who can take phones apart and put them back together can do to get to the good stuff inside?
Luckily, Steve took exactly the right safeguards and did everything he could.
- Always use a secure lock screen. Swiping to unlock is as easy for me to do on your phone as it is for you, the real owner.
- Change your Google password when you're signed into a device you are unable to sign out of when you've stopped using it.
Encryption and a good lock screen passphrase will keep almost everyone from getting access to your data as long as you have them enabled. Changing your Google password is that extra step to make sure any damage is minimal if they do. Take these steps and feel good about your security when you're selling or gifting a broken phone that can be fixed.
This is also the best (and easiest) thing you can do in case a phone gets completely destroyed and is destined for the recycle bin. Set up a secure lock screen right now, change your password if/when it happens and you're good. But what if you didn't have a secure lock screen and the phone is already broken?
Sometimes, you might need to get a little crazy and use tools.
You basically have two options: change your Google password and hope that nobody ever gets it up and running again, or physically destroy the innards.
Chances are nobody will trawl through your refuse to collect broken phone parts, then put them together so they can see your naked Kik folder unless those pics would be worth a lot of money. If you're not famous it's just not worth the trouble. Don't feel bad, I'm not worth the trouble either and that's awesome. If you're not comfortable with that option, you need to be a little savage.
You can take a phone completely apart and it's not that hard if you never want it to work again. Watch for glass and other small sharp things and use big heavy pliers to twist things until the pop free. Keep whittling at things until you see the green circuit board(s) inside. Usually, it is right behind the display. On those boards, you'll see various black squares that look and feel like they're ceramic. Two of them are larger than the rest. One of those is the flash storage — usually about the size of a stamp. The other bigger one is the processor. Find a spot of concrete and a hammer. Hulk smash both of those stamp-sized components until they are sufficiently broken. Put all the pieces in the recycle bin.
Yeah, that's a lot of hassle (fun hassle, but whatever) but it's also a 100% way to make sure nobody outside of the FBI is going to be able to retrieve that data. Putting the password on the lock screen was easier.