One Billion Android Phones Vulnerable to Malware and Hacks: Report

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More than a billion Android devices are prone to being hijacked by hackers, according to a new report from technology Watchdog, “Which?”.

Which? has stated that “over 40% of Android users may no longer be receiving important security updates, potentially putting them at risk of malware, data theft and cyberattacks,” the firm, which specialises in consumer choices and product testing.

Researchers are publishing that an Android device purchased on or before 2012 should consider an upgrade, otherwise the security of their device could be deemed compromised.

According to the report which has analysed data from Google, two out of every five Android users may “no longer be receiving updates, and while these devices won’t immediately have problems, without security support there is an increased risk to the user.”

Which? tested out five popular smartphones, including the Motorola X, the Samsung Galaxy A5, Sony Xperia Z2, LG/Google Nexus 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 and asked an anti-virus company to try to infect the phones.

The anti-virus company in question, AV-Comparatives managed to infect each of the phones, and in some cases, injected multiple bugs into the phone. The firm then shared its findings with Google, which “failed to provide reassurance that it has plans in place to help users whose devices were no longer supported.”

According to the BBC’s reporting, “the watchdog wants Google and others to provide far more transparency around how long updates for smart devices will be provided. And it said the mobile industry needed to do a better job of giving support to customers about their options once security updates are no longer available.”

There have been no security updates issued last year for versions of the Android operating system 7.0 and below.

The report also quotes Kate Bevan, the Computing Editor at Which? Added that “it’s very concerning that expensive Android devices have such a short shelf life before they lose security support, leaving millions of users at risk of serious consequences if they fall victim to hackers.”

She continued to explain that “Google and phone manufacturers need to be upfront about security updates - which 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,” Bevan concluded.

The BBC’s report also includes a guide on how to maintain whether or not your phone is vulnerable to a hack, these steps include:

If your Android device is more than two years old, check whether it can be updated to a newer version of the operating system. If you are on an earlier version than Android 7.0 Nougat, try to update via Settings> System>Advanced System update

  • If you can't update, your phone could be at risk of being hacked, especially if you are running a version of Android 4 or lower.

  • If this is the case be careful about downloading apps outside the Google Play store

  • Also be wary of suspicious SMS or MMS messages

  • Back up data in at least two places (a hard drive and a cloud service)

  • Install a mobile anti-virus via an app, but bear in mind that the choice is limited for older phones

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