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Security & privacy

Hours of police video found on body cams sold on eBay

When you sell a gadget on eBay, one of the most important things you need to do is clear any data it may contain. Doing so will take additional time and effort, but leaving your existing information to chance is not worth the tradeoff.

That’s because once your gadget is sold, there’s no getting it back. Any data your phone, computer or camera contains is now forfeit to the buyer, and there’s no telling what they’ll do with it. Tap or click here to see why it’s so important to delete your data when you sell your old smartphones.

This wisdom doesn’t just apply to consumer gadgets, either. Police have also been selling used body cameras online, and not all of these devices have been cleared of footage. This means buyers are ending up with footage that may be classified or confidential.

Always erase your devices — no matter how small

According to the Arizona Mirror, a security researcher who goes by KF on Twitter was able to access video files from an Axon body camera purchased on eBay. The files were extracted from a microSD card inside the device, and contained candid footage of Fort Huachuca Military police both on duty and filling out paperwork.

KF claims to have used a software tool called Foremost to extract the files from the microSD card, and that no encryption appeared to have been set up whatsoever. This means that anyone purchasing the camera would have had immediate access to footage not meant to be shared with the general public.

In a statement to the Arizona Mirror, manufacturer Axon said they were aware of the issue, and have now “launched an investigation looking into the matter.” They also stated they would be reevaluating their processes to “better emphasize proper disposal procedures for our customers.”

As for the Fort Huachuca Military Police, no statement was issued, and it’s unknown how the camera ended up on eBay in the first place.

How do I know if my devices are safe to sell online?

The only way you’ll know your device is free of personal data is if you take the time to remove it yourself. This can be a bit time consuming, but as we said earlier, giving buyers access to your digital footprint isn’t worth the privacy risk.

If you plan on selling any kind of camera (body-mounted or otherwise), deleting the data is usually a fairly straightforward process using either the device’s on-board menu or file management software on your computer. Before you ship your device, comb through every single photo and video and make sure to click Delete or Trash.

If there are videos you can’t afford to lose, backing them up is your biggest priority. Storing these files on your computer is one method to try, but your information can still be compromised or lost if something happens to it.

That’s why recommend using our sponsor IDrive, which features secure, encrypted cloud storage for all of your backup needs. Your valuable files are saved on a cloud storage system that will be unscathed even if your computer suffers a devastating hack or shutdown.

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As for smartphones (which, if we’re being honest, are the cameras we use most), deleting data takes a bit more know-how. Here’s how to do it on both iOS and Android devices. Don’t forget to back up your software first, though.

RELATED: 5 steps that can help you back up your data like a pro

To reset on iOS, open the Settings app, navigate to General, and scroll down to the bottom until you see Reset. Tap this, and on the next screen, you’ll see several options to erase or reset your phone. Since you’re getting rid of your current device, you’ll want to select Erase All Content and Settings.

You may be asked to enter your Apple ID and password at this point if you have an activation lock enabled. This option totally reformats your device and gets rid of all data on it.

On a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, go to Settings and then General Management. Then, select Reset. Select Factory data reset and then tap Reset device.

On a Google Pixel, open Settings followed by System. Then, select Advanced, then Reset options followed by Erase all data (factory reset). Then tap Reset phone.

On a Huawei phone, go to Settings followed by System and tap Reset. Then, select Factory data reset and tap Reset Phone.

And just like with iPhones, you’ll need to remove any activation locks before you can go any further. Tap or click here to find out how to disable the activation locks on your smartphone.

If you have a computer, the backup and resetting process can be a bit more involved. But if you don’t take the time, your data could be compromised. Don’t take the risk!

Tap or click here to find out how to safely delete data on your Mac or PC forever.

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