Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Millions of Android phone users ‘at risk of being hacked’ due to poor update support

Many Android phone brands offer vital security updates for only two years after the launch of a phone, although customers may end up using the phone for up to six years, putting them at risk of being hacked.

Despite handsets appearing to work as normal, users could be putting themselves at risk of data theft or having their phones infected with ransomware and a range of other malware attacks that could leave them facing bills for hundreds of pounds, consumer group Which? warned.

A new Which? report said recently out-of-support devices might not immediately have problems, but without security updates, the risk to the user of being hacked increases dramatically. It also said it is concerned about the lack of awareness of this issue among phone users.

Handsets from brands like Apple (AAPL), Samsung (005930.KS) and Huawei were found to be capable of lasting six years or more before they needed replacing due to faults or issues with performance. However, while Apple provides software support for five or six years, some Android brands only offer these vital updates for two or three years.

Which? said brands must be more transparent with consumers about their update policies and practices, and communicate clearly when a device will no longer be supported.

These findings “further highlight the importance and urgency of new laws proposed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport requiring smart devices sold in the UK to adhere to basic security requirements,” the report said.

The consumer group said it is calling for strong enforcement measures for companies that let down their customers by failing to live up to their commitments.

In a survey of more than 15,000 Which? members, a third of people (32%) said they kept their handset for more than four years.

The Which? research found that only a handful (7%) of those surveyed reported a lack of ongoing support as the reason they had replaced their phone, showing a lack of awareness about the issue.

Another concern Which? pointed out was that without security updates beyond two or three years, phones that could otherwise be in good working order cannot be used or resold without putting their owners at risk. This adds to the UK’s growing electronic waste problem when they end up discarded in landfill sites.

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