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Why You Need to Wipe Your Cell Phone Before You Toss it and Other Critical Cyber Hygiene Guides

Pause for a moment and recall how you disposed of your last cell phone. If you didn’t wipe it before you sold, traded-in, donated or otherwise disposed of, you were handing off a gold mine for an identity thief.

Our cell phones store a considerable amount of personal and sensitive information on them. Data stored on your device may include:

  • Location history
  • Contacts in your address book
  • Call and message history
  • Web browsing history
  • Photos, videos, audio recordings, and emails
  • Stored passwords
  • Access to files stored in the cloud

Before you dispose of a cell phone (or any mobile device for that matter), it is critical to wipe it to ensure this sensitive data isn’t available to the next person who gets his hands on your old device.

Wipe Your Device

Simply deleting the data from your cell phone is not enough! Those deleted files can be easily recovered using free tools on the internet. Instead, securely erase all of the data by wiping it with a “factory reset” or “hard reset” on your phone. For detailed instructions on how to do a reset, check your owner’s manual.

Don’t Forget About SIM and SD Cards

Factory and hard resets will not delete data on your SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) or SD (Secure Digital) card. Talk to your phone provider about transferring your SIM and SD cards to your new phone. If that’s not an option, shred or destroy them.

More Cybersecurity and Cyber Hygiene Tools and Tips

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Sponsored by the National Cyber Security Division within the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, the goal of the observance is increased awareness of cybersecurity and cyber hygiene (your personal responsibility to engage in safe online practices). The Stop.Think.Connect. Cyber Toolkit offers dozens of downloadable PDF guides on a variety of cyber topics, including:


The volume and sophistication of cybercrime threats increase with every passing day. The best weapons to protect yourself are knowledge and diligence.