That used or refurbished Android phone might be unsafe: 6 things to know

Would you share photos like this if you happen to knew hackers may see all the things in your phone?


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With flagship phones just like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and iPhone 11 Pro costing over $1,000, it is extra tempting than ever to select up a cut price, refurbished phone. But whilst you can decide up a used Samsung Galaxy, Sony or HTC phone that is of fine high quality for a really low value, is it really secure to make use of these telephones? 

Phones launched years in the past run outdated variations of Android. That might nicely imply that they do not have vital safety updates that may hold you — and your knowledge — secure from prying eyes. If you are involved about safety and privateness in your beforehand owned phone, listed below are some issues it is best to contemplate.

Read extraHere’s what $650 buys you in used phones on eBay

What is a safety patch for a phone OS? 

Whenever hackers uncover a brand new gap in your phone’s software program to use, phone-makers often get it mounted, and that repair is shipped out to your phone to make it possible for no person can make the most of it. That’s a safety patch. You’ll possible have obtained loads of them over time as cybercriminals are at all times looking for new methods to bypass the safety in your phone. It’s a continuing cycle of figuring out threats, fixing them, then discovering the following one.

Most of the time, you may by no means learn about it, but it surely’s the factor that is preserving your phone updated and guarded towards identified threats. 

Why do producers cease sending out safety patches?

Manufacturers equivalent to Samsung, Sony, Google and HTC solely present assist to a phone for thus lengthy. Each new handset that is launched and every new model of Android require new risk evaluation and patching. That’s quite a lot of work, and it signifies that discovering and patching these holes for each single handset spanning years and years simply turns into unfeasible. 

The HTC One M8, launched in 2014, is now not formally supported and would not get safety patches.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As a end result, Google and the phone-makers finally have to chop off assist for older handsets, often as soon as a tool will get to be two or three years outdated. Those handsets then will now not obtain safety updates, which means that when a risk is detected on that phone, it merely will not be mounted. 

So is utilizing an out-of-date phone secure?

As Christoph Hebeisen, director of safety intelligence firm Lookout, explains, “We do not consider it safe to run a device that does not receive security patches. Critical security vulnerabilities become public knowledge every few weeks, or months, and once a system is out of support, then users who continue to run it become susceptible to exploitation of known vulnerabilities.”

According to Hebeisen, a weak phone may enable full entry to all the things that is in your phone, together with your private and firm emails, contact data, your banking particulars or audio of your phone calls. A hacker may proceed to have entry to this data for so long as you proceed utilizing the compromised handset.

Paul Ducklin, principal analysis scientist at safety firm Sophos, agrees, saying, “If your phone has a software vulnerability that crooks already know how to exploit, for example to steal data or implant malware, then that vulnerability is going to be with you forever.”

Read extra: Best portable chargers and power banks to buy for Android in 2020

Check to see in case your phone has the most recent software program put in. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

How do I do know if my phone is outdated?

Finding out in case your phone remains to be supported and receiving safety patches usually is not simple. To begin, go into Settings and examine your software program updates. Install the most recent model. Usually it’s going to provide you with some indication of when the phone was final up to date. If your phone says it has the most recent OS software program, however that newest model was put in many months or years in the past, it is unhealthy information. Your phone might be now not supported. 

Sadly, producers do not provide you with a giant warning that tells you after they’ve dropped assist for a phone, so that you both discover out via a impolite awakening like I discussed above or determine it out your self via another means.

A very good rule of thumb is {that a} phone will now not be supported if it is two to 3 years outdated. This varies from firm to firm, nonetheless. Google, for instance, states that it makes safety updates accessible for Android variations 8.0, 8.1, 9.Zero and 10. Its Pixel telephones get safety updates for “at least three years” from after they went on sale and Google additionally mandates that producers should present not less than two years of updates for units. Apple, by comparability, nonetheless gives software program updates for telephones going again 5 years, as a result of it has comparatively few fashions to handle. The newest iOS 13 could be put in on 2015’s iPhone 6S ($450 at Sprint).

Despite having the most recent software program put in, this Galaxy S6’s final safety replace was utilized in 2018. That signifies that there are two years of recent exploits that this phone is vulnerable to.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Finding out in case your Android phone is supported will contain some digging. I discovered Nokia’s tool for seeing updates of its phones after going via a collection of assist pages on its web site. Samsung despatched me its listing after I contacted its PR group, and it’s available online here. Google has a page that clearly tells you when your Pixel or Nexus phone will lose safety assist. (Spoiler alert: All Nexus telephones and the first-gen Pixel are out of assist, with the Pixel 2 ($600 at Amazon) dropping assist this October.) Your finest place to start out is with the assist pages in your phone producer’s web site.

You may not discover instantly in case your phone is outdated. The most evident signal you are on outdated software program could be while you search for new apps to obtain. Many apps will merely be incompatible because of the software program and {hardware} limitations in your phone and you will not be capable to set up them. 

How can I inform if my phone has been hacked?

Whether you’d ever discover in case your phone’s safety was compromised is tough to say. Cybercriminals do not precisely make it identified they’ve accessed your machine, so you may must search for indicators. Popups which may seem on the phone are a giant giveaway, as are any apps that abruptly seem that you simply did not obtain.

Look out for unexplained excessive knowledge utilization too, because it could possibly be that malicious apps are utilizing quite a lot of knowledge within the background. Other indicators also can embrace unusually excessive battery utilization and sluggish efficiency, however each of those will also be attributed to utilizing older {hardware} that degrades over time.

How can I hold myself secure if I’ve an outdated phone? 

As Hebeisen says, one of the best ways to maintain your self secure is solely to not use a phone that is now not supported. If you are quick on cash, cannot afford to improve simply but otherwise you’re utilizing an older phone quickly for no matter motive, there are a few issues you are able to do that would assist. 

The Galaxy S6 was launched in 2015, making it 5 years outdated. Most telephones are solely supported for 2 to 3 years. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First, it is best to ensure the phone has the most recent software program put in. If you obtain it used, ensure to totally factory-reset the phone. Ensure that you simply solely obtain apps from the Google Play Store (fairly than from third-party or unofficial app shops) and positively keep away from putting in apps by downloading the APK file from a web site. This can usually be a approach that malicious software program weasels its approach right into a phone.

You will help defend your private data by merely not giving an excessive amount of away within the first place. Don’t do any banking on the phone, do not sync your organization e-mail accounts and do not ship horny photos or have horny video chats till you are again on a protected machine. (Even over a phone, it is essential to apply secure intercourse.) According to Hebeisen, if you happen to do not take such precautions, “this might enable an attacker to observe and manipulate almost everything happening on the device.” That’s a chilly bathe, proper there.

Read extra: The best Android VPNs of 2020


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Tarun Banerjee

Professional Web Designer & Developer,Expert in SEO & Digital Market, Founder of Tech Hunt.

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