Why Refurbished Phones Are a Threat to Your Privacy

If you value your online security, then buying a refurbished phone might not be the great idea you thought it was.


As the prices for Samsung and Apple flagship smartphones rise, so does the desire to have one. That’s why you started considering getting a refurbished phone in the first place. And why not? It makes perfect sense if it’s twice as cheap as a new device.


Well, what you save in cash, you can lose in data security. Few of us realize refurbished phones can actually put our private information at risk. If you’re thinking of buying a refurbished iPhone or a Samsung smartphone, keep reading to find out what threats come with the lower price.

You can never be too safe

No matter if we share photos, message friends, or look for a job online, we want our data to be safe — online security is one of our fundamental rights. But with everything that’s happened throughout the years of the digital privacy evolution, it’s hard to believe only we have access to our confidential information.


Even the General Data Protection Regulation can’t guarantee our data safety as much as we’d like: 58% of users still don’t believe companies treat confidential information according to the law. And when it comes to our phones, it’s essential to prevent any data leakages as smartphones contain complete dossiers on us. What does this have to do with refurbished phones, you ask?

What’s wrong with refurbished phones?

When people are done with smartphones, it’s quite common for them to return their old phones to the shops, where they’re remanufactured or refurbished. When smartphones look all shiny as if they were new, retailers sell them again, but with the tag “refurbished” and a lower price.


But here’s the catch. Every new smartphone released on the market has the latest version of the Operating System (OS). However, as time goes by, Apple and Google stop updating them. And this means most refurbished smartphones have an outdated OS.


For companies like Samsung or Google, supporting older smartphones isn’t as profitable as selling new devices. 


Eventually, manufacturers decide to cut off smartphone support a couple of years after release. When considering this, Google or Samsung phones are safe only for two years after they were released to market. And currently, 40% of Android devices aren’t even supported.


Apple, instead, is more concerned about its ongoing product security and support. They continue to update their devices even after they’ve spent five years on the market. For instance, iPhone 6, released in 2015, was supported until 2020. Apple phones released after iPhone 6 can be updated to the latest iOS versions. This means iPhone security is way more durable compared with Android devices.

Why is it unsafe to use refurbished phones?

Devices without any security updates from Android or iOS are extremely vulnerable to hackers. When manufacturers stop updating smartphones, the security holes that may have been patched up in the later versions remain open in the older ones. If hackers know about them and exploit these breaches, they can get unlimited access to your photos, emails, bank accounts, and other important private information.


Moreover, if hackers have already accessed your data, they can continue stealing it while you’re using the phone with an outdated OS version. And then even the simplest actions on your phone can cause data loss. For example, iPhone's copy and paste function led to user pasteboards leaks.

How can I secure my data on a refurbished phone?

If you’ve now decided to throw away your refurbished Samsung Galaxy or keep asking yourself, why does Google sell refurbished phones in the first place, keep calm. All is not lost. Here are a few tips to help you prevent data leaks from your phone, whether it's refurbished or not:

  • Firstly, don’t send any confidential information through your phone. This includes account passwords, billing information, working files, personal photos, and so on.
  • Secondly, if you’ve bought a refurbished phone, make a full phone factory-reset. This will help you wipe all potentially dangerous files set up by the previous owner.
  • Thirdly, only download files from trustworthy sources like AppStore or Google Play. Files downloaded from third-party websites are often infected. Installing them can make your phone vulnerable to hackers and result in huge data losses.

Follow these simple tips to prevent possible hackers attacks, and you’ll see for yourself that a stitch in time saves nine.


* * *


True, refurbished phones can cause privacy problems for their owners, but this doesn’t mean they always will if you take care. As long as you know about the threats and how to protect your personal information, you’ll be fine. 


And if you’d like to learn more about digital security and data safety, keep on reading Clario’s blog. After all, looking out for your Google, Apple, or Samsung device security is a must-have in the digital age.

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