Renegades across Korea are frantically deleting their chat histories after misogynistic comments and surreptitiously filmed sex tapes in a celebrity group chat came to light when one K-pop star took his phone in for repairs.
But just deleting text and video files from a smartphone does not mean the data cannot in theory be retrieved by savvy technicians. Experts say the easiest way to clean up embarrassing or incriminating material is to reset the phone to factory settings, though that of course also erases everything else except the apps the phone came with in the first place. The same goes for USB devices.
The National Intelligence Service and other government agencies recommend complete formatting at least three times for devices containing confidential information. Another method is to use a special app that deletes data by storing irregular data on top of another.
Major conglomerates make senior executives replace their mobile phones once a year due to security concerns. Some businesses change the smartphones of key executives every few months if they handle sensitive information. One HR manager at a major conglomerate said, "Company smartphones used by executives are retrieved and reset to factory settings and then donated to the needy."
Those who are afraid of exposing private information should make sure not to sync their smartphone with other devices and keep their saved data out of the cloud. Data will be shared through accounts like as Google or Naver even if they are deleted on the phone itself.
One executive at a conglomerate said, "Executives who handle sensitive information do not sync their smartphones with Google or other services and use only the bare minimum of functions like you might find on a 2G mobile phone."
Experts also recommend contingency plans in case the phone is lost. Complex passwords can help, as can fingerprint or iris recognition programs, though smart technicians have been known to hack through them. Remote-control functions are also available to delete data if you lose your smartphone.
Seung-ri of boy band Big Bang arrives at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency for questioning on Thursday.