android phones

Wireless Carriers Leave Millions of Android Phones Vulnerable to Hackers

by KIM ZETTER,  |  published on February 7, 2013

There are millions of vulnerable Android phones in the hands of consumers today because wireless phone carriers and phone hardware makers refuse to transmit existing software security fixes to phones in a timely manner, according to a security researcher.

Unlike phones made by Apple, which has power over carriers and controls the distribution of software updates to its phones, Android users can’t get an update to their phones without the carrier’s intervention, notes Chris Soghoian principal technologist and senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The phones have to contact a server run by the carrier in order to get an update.”

As a result, Android users are slave to the update schedule of wireless carriers or the hardware makers, who can take a year or longer to distribute new firmware updates containing fixes to phones.

“When Apple decides that it’s going to give a security update to consumers or a feature update, every consumer who plugs their phone into their computer gets the update whether or not their respective regional carrier likes it,” Soghoian said, speaking at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit.

But with Android, “you get updates when the carrier wants it and when the hardware manufacturer wants it, and usually that’s not very often.”

Research released by DuoSecurity last September found that half of sampled Android devices had unfixed vulnerabilities, even though there were patches from Google that were available for them. There are over 100 million Android devices deployed worldwide.

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