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The flaw in factory resets

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A new service allows users to sell old phones and tablets but, as LIRON SEGEV reports, deleting information before selling a device does not wipe your slate clean

 

 

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Every phone and tablet has an option under Settings that allows you to Reset Phone to Factory Defaults. When activating this option the phone warns you that it will delete all your information, pics, music, e-mail, apps and everything else that you have loaded on the device. Essentially the phone is reset to the point where it came out of the factory and ready to be setup for the first time.

But is this good enough ? Is your information really deleted?

The shocking answer is: NO.

What happens when you delete ?

When we create a file, such as when we snap a new pic or create a new document, the operating system creates the file by storing it in bits and pieces in blocks on the device’s storage – be it internal phone storage or SD Card. It look similar to this:

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In order to find which blocks make up the file, the operating system creates an index which identifies the bits that make up the complete file.

When you delete a file, the operating system removes not the content inside the blocks, but removes the reference to those blocks from the Index. However all the bits in the blocks still remain on the hard drive and are marked as “free” so that new files can overwrite those bits. It’s the equivalent of removing the chapter name from the Index of the book, but still leaving the contents of the chapter inside the book – if you page through, you will find that chapter even without the index.

And this is where the problem arrises.

There are applications that allow techies to skip over the index and view the bits inside those blocks so they can recover any file whose blocks haven’t been overwritten by new files.

Does Factory Reset leaves content behind?

Yes.

This is confirmed by the team at security firm Avast, who purchased 20 phones on eBay and ran their software though them that have been reset to Factory Defaults. They discovered over 40,000 photos (yes, including those sexting pics), 750 e-mails, 250 contacts with names and addresses and various personal files.

Stefan Tanase, Senior Security Researcher, Global Research & Analysis Team, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Kaspersky Lab confirms this too:

“A staggering amount of personal data is usually left on devices after a factory reset is performed. Most often these devices end up being sold on eBay(-like) websites, and might end up in the hands of someone with bad intentions, who can recover the data. Users don’t realise that they leave behind e-mails or SMS messages, contact information or even personal pictures and videos shot with the phone camera. Essentially, all data stored on the device is recoverable to some extent”

How do you do you ensure that your data is actually deleted ?

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Simply doing a factory reset clearly is not the answer. If you want to ensure that none of your sensitive pics or information land up all over the Internet, you should Encrypt your device before doing Factory Reset

This sounds very “James-Bondy” but it s a simple step that you need to do with the tool  included with your phone. When you run the encryption tool, it protects your files from prying eyes which goes a long way to stop anyone with $50 software from getting a hold of your  family pics.

Each phone manufacturer has their own way of dealing with encryption:

Obviously before engaging in this, make sure you read and understand what is involved and back up your phone (do not lose the PIN either.)

If your device doesn’t have encryption built into the settings, then you can download several applications from the App Stores that allow you to do that.

The obvious solution would be for the mobile phone manufacturers to have encryption built into their Factory Reset process, however as Stefan Tanase  points out that the mobile phone manufacturers chose not to do this because of:

1. Lack of security awareness – both users and manufacturers generally don’t realise the importance of securely erasing data.

2. Speed – erasing a storage device securely takes more time, and the reality is that most users would rather have their device quickly perform the factory reset.

The more we trust our mobile phones with out lives, the more we should be weary of just how vulnerable these devices are. We need to be more aware of the digital fingerprints we are leaving behind.

* Image courtesy of shutterstock.com

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Projection tech transforms retail

By TIMOTHY WILSON, visual imaging business account manager at Epson South Africa

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Display designs, such as those found in retail stores, are no longer confined to static visuals on pull-up banners, 2D print and posters. The increasingly popular use of projection technology has ushered in new and exciting ways to create immersive displays using rich media and high-quality visual content to go beyond the four walls of traditional marketing.

In the past, projectors were lamp-based and prone to failure when used in a harsh environment, such as a retail store. Today, newly introduced laser projection technology has unlocked a range of capabilities.

Transforming the way brands engage with audiences

Creative techniques such as projection mapping, which can be described as the projection of video, animation and other colourful displays onto 3D surfaces, have completely transformed the way brands engage with audiences and can live in retail spaces, concert halls and even sports stadiums.

Projection mapping offers venues wide-spread creativity in using lighting in small or large environments, as was the case with Epson’s showstopping kinetic portal, which implemented projection mapping on a 360 degree vortex at the largest AV and systems integration show in the world – Integrated Systems Europe 2019. Driven by a new, affordable generation of projectors, mapping not only covers flat walls and traditional projections screens but also irregular shapes, objects, and even entire building façades.

When projecting on a larger scale, such as at events and music concerts, the process of visually combining several projectors to display one single seamless image might sound simple enough in principle but can prove to be a challenging task in reality. To overcome this challenge, experiential marketers are adopting the use of image edge blending, which refers to the process of stacking multiple projectors to create a single overlapped projection that appears continuous and clear.

It’s due to these advancements that displays in retail and events no longer pivot just on aesthetic appeal but can now deliver immersive consumer experiences that drive engagement and increase foot traffic. This is starting to drastically change the way that retailers, events and even restaurants host, engage, entertain and communicate with their audiences.

Projection is driving growth in experiential marketing

Consumer interest in the transition towards projection has seen this technology take centre stage at leading retailers such as Mall of Africa, events by brands such as ABSA and restaurants like Saint, transforming their environments into immersive spaces through projection that displays captivating imagery and video.

Saint restaurant in Sandton has pushed the boundaries of branding and displays, transforming all surfaces into a visual delight. Patrons entering the restaurant are greeted by a visual experience within a dome, featuring a series of moving, constantly changing artworks – such as a starry night sky or a replica of the Sistine Chapel – projected onto walls and the ceiling.

In fact, EventTrack research, which showcases the current state of marketing around the globe, highlights the continuous growth of event and experiential marketing. It notes that high-quality projection technology, more specifically its ability to emit stunning visual experiences, has grown in popularity to become the go-to tool for event organisers and retailers looking to captivate and engage with consumers.

The future of projection technology

Projection technology has proven to be an outstanding, much more cost-effective and reliable form of marketing collateral – setting an entirely new standard for high-resolution projection.

Sandton City recently embraced this market-leading technology with the installation of a virtual aquarium in its Centre Court. This installation centred on creating a 3D mapping concept that enabled shoppers to select an undersea creature from a touchpad to swim across digitised hoarding.

With capabilities to meet the demands of large-scale projection and the ability to effectively transform the way brands remain visible at shopping malls, restaurants and retail spaces – the unprecedented imaging power of projection technology has set a considerably high bar when it comes to retail and event displays. 

Epson, which is not only pioneering imaging technology and innovative projection solutions, is also the market leader when it comes to high lumen laser projection, having recently announced its 30,000 lumens laser projector (EB-L30000U) which will officially launch in 2020. This high-end installation laser projector, complete with 4K enhancement, is aimed at rental and staging companies, hospitality markets and visitor attractions, which is yet another progressive step towards transforming the way marketers engage with their consumers in the 21st century. 

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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