Poke a Used and Reset Android Phone: it'll Spill its Guts

If you're reading this, it's likely you're a fan of Apple and probably don't have an Android smartphone. But just in case you have a friend or family member who does, show them this next article that I link to below. A security company, Avast, purchased 20 different smartphones on eBay, phones that the owners presumably thought they'd wiped clean, and used a data recovery tool.

What they found will alarm you.

In contrast, iPhones use a hardware encryption, so when the encryption key is destroyed on a reset, the data is very hard to recover. Not so for Android phones apparently. Here's the story: "Hard Proof That Wiping Your Phone Doesn't Actually Delete Everything."

So ... I'll never forget the time, years ago, in Aspen when I asked a ski tech to tune 0/0 degree edges on my K2 skies. His response was "scary, man, scary." That's how I felt about Android smartphone security after I read that story.

Apple does everything it can to tell the story about how the company is using the best available technology to protect its customers. But perhaps people ignore that fact because they just don't want to hear about it. The article above explains the awful discovery in very clear terms, so there's really no excuse for feeling overwhelmed by the technology described there.

Another reason people may ignore the differences between Apple's iPhone and other smartphones is because some writers go out of their way to dramatize every little problem with iPhones and readers are, thereby, unable to put into perspective the relative risks. While there are occasional iOS lapses, not every bug gets a weaponized response and results in a pandemic of compromises.

The recovery of "40,000 photos (including 1,500 family photos with children and 250 selfies of someone's "manhood"), 750 emails, 250 contacts with names and addresses and even files such as a loan application..." should give us pause about which company we want to bet our technical future on.

Next: Tech News Debris for the Week of July 7

Page 2 - Tech News Debris for the Week of July 7


We're in tech cruise mode right now. Our smartphones are cool and fun. The cameras are fantasic. We might get a sapphire display on the iPhone 6. Our desktop Macs are terrific. The Internet remains a magnificent source of information and is generally open and free.

But technology in the hands of giant corporations shows signs of going awry in some ways. What happens when things get out of hand for the sake of profit?

Case #1. Entry level. When drones are everywhere in the sky for one purpose, what happens when there's mission scope creep and a simple delivery system becomes something more ominous. "Amazon asks FAA to let it ramp up drone development."

Case #2. Mid-level. Siri can be helpful, but can often flub. That's okay. These days, we can take or leave Siri and there's no real emotional attachment. But what will change when we develop an emotional attachment to our AI? Is that even a good thing to shoot for? What about AIs used by kids? I don't know if Microsoft's Cortana is shooting for this, but in today's tech wars of oneupmanship, both Siri and Cortana could head in that direction of indispensability. With no bias at all, here's some background on Cortana to bring you up to speed.

Case #3. More ominous. "Google Cofounder Sergey Brin: We Will Make Machines That 'Can Reason, Think, And Do Things Better Than We Can'" We're already seeing how primitive AI agents in our smartphones schedule, suggest, advise and urge. What happens when reasonable people occasionally decide that they don't want to follow the oh-so logical advice of the Big Machine?

Case #4. Yet more ominous. From Business Insider. "Today there's no legislation regarding how much intelligence a machine can have, how interconnected it can be. If that continues, look at the exponential trend. We will reach the singularity in the timeframe most experts predict. From that point on you're going to see that the top species will no longer be humans, but machines." Read more here: "By 2045 'The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans,' And That Could Be A Problem."

Analysis. Part of this escalation is explained in an insightful essay about smart people: "Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything." This missive is a good read.

Enough of that.

This week, I interviewed a theoretical astrophysicist, Dr. Gaurav Khanna, who looked into his crystal ball and suggested that, someday, we might have a supercomputer with a million A7 chips made by Apple. That's because smartphones are driving our technology like nothing else in terms of 64-bit high performance and low power.

Smartphones also seem to be driving the video technology in ways that hadn't been foreseen. "Will Smartphones Jump-Start 4K Video Adoption?" What else will emerge, serendipitously, from the smartphone technology race?

Finally, one of the things I've learned about technology is that no matter the conventional wisdom, there's always a technical gotcha that gets overlooked. Then, if you're well read, you run across a delightful morsel that undermines off-hand analysis. In this case, it's about HDTV 2K to 4K up-conversion, which apparently is pretty good now. That means that the argument about the lack of 4K content holding back 4K TVs might not be definitive, and that is probably not lost on Apple. No one you know has read this, but now you have: "4K TV Does NOT Require Native 4K Media."