Thursday, March 5, 2020

Warning as one BILLION users of Google's Android phones 'risk being hacked'

MORE than a billion Android phones and tablets are at risk of being hacked – putting users at risk of devastating cyber-attacks.

A Which? investigation has revealed that as many as two in five Android users no longer receive vital security updates from Google.

This puts them at risk of "data theft, ransom demands and other malware attacks".

And it could leave some victims facing bills for hundreds of pounds, the report notes.

Android phones run on software made by Google – just like an iPhone is powered by Apple code.

Google regularly updates Android phones with security fixes, to prevent hackers from exploiting bugs.

But older Android phone models stop receiving these updates, putting their users at risk.

Without an update provided by a fix, a hacker can exploit a hole in your phone's security and wreak havoc on your life.

Which? took selection of affected phones and tablets into its labs, and found that they could "easily" be hacked.

Among the devices were models from Google, LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony – many of which were still available to buy online.

Anyone using Android phones released in 2012 or earlier are particularly at risk.

But even newer models will be missing out on some security updates.

"It’s very concerning that expensive Android devices have such a short shelf life before they lose security support," said Kate Bevan, Which? Computing Editor.

"Leaving millions of users at risk of serious consequences if they fall victim to hackers.

"Google and phone manufacturers need to be upfront about security updates.

"With clear information about how long they will last and what customers should do when they run out.

"The government must also push ahead with planned legislation to ensure manufacturers are far more transparent about security updates for smart devices – and their impact on consumers."

Got an old Android phone?

Here’s the official Which? advice on what to do…

  • If your Android device is more than two years old, check if it can be updated to a newer version of Android
  • Open your phone or tablet Settings app, then tap System > Advanced > System Update.
  • You can then see your Android version
  • If you are on a version before Android 7.0 Nougat, try to update your system
  • Still in the System update section, follow the instructions to run the update
  • If you can’t update to a newer version, you’ll need to consider that there will be an increased risk of using your device going forwards
  • Especially if you are running a version off Android 4 or lower

There are billions of Android devices out in the wild.

And just 10.4% of them are using the newer Android 9.0 Pie software update.

That number is low partly because Android phones are made by many companies – not just Google.

By contrast, Apple has far greater control over iOS devices, because it makes them all in-house.

So 77% of all iOS devices introduced in the last four years use the latest iOS 13 software.

And iOS 13 is available on devices going back to 2015, while many Android gadgets lose supported after just a year or two.

We've asked Google, Samsung, Sony, Motorola and LG for comment.

Should Google provide security updates forever?

Here's what Paul Bischoff, Privacy Advocate at Comparitech, told The Sun…

  • "No. Nothing lasts forever.
  • "But given that a large portion of users are running outdated versions of Android, it could extend support for longer than it does now.
  • "Microsoft, for example, supports Windows’ versions for 10 years or so.
  • "Also, consider that many phone manufacturers use their own versions of Android (called "forks") and should, therefore, also be held accountable for long-term support."

In other news, WhatsApp has finally launched 'dark mode' on iPhone and Android.

Android users have been warned that some hugely popular apps on the Google Play Store could put them at risk.

Invitations to hundreds of thousands of supposedly private WhatsAppchats have been published online.

And, Instagram fans have unearthed a secret feature in a popular sticker that lets you switch on your sound with one tap.

Do you trust Google to protect your smartphone privacy? Let us know in the comments!

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