The restricted rollout of Android security updates in combination with the Android fragmentation issue has put over a billion Android users at the risk of getting hacked or scammed.
If you are someone who is not a fan of frequently changing your smartphone device and is fine with a reasonably old-timey version of Android OS then it is time for you to revisit your decision.
In a research that was recently published by popular consumer magazine ‘Which’, it has been revealed that over a billion Android devices, very much active and being used, can potentially be compromised by various hackers and malware as they haven’t been receiving timely security updates.
But why alone Android we are talking about here? Android is the most popular mobile OS as it accounts for 73.3% of the Worldwide smartphone OS market now.
At the moment, the most recent version of Android OS is Android 10, aka Android Q, which will later be upgraded to version 11 scheduled to be rolled out later this year by Google. However, there are millions of devices that are still receiving updates of the previous two versions of Android – Android 9.0 Pie and Android 8.0 Oreo.
According to the publication, any Android version that’s below Android 8.0 is heavily vulnerable to malicious hackers and malware. It was also pointed out by the publication that a whopping 42.1% of the overall users of Android devices are still operating at versions 6.0 or lower according to the data they obtained from Google.
Adding to this problem is the continued sale of the older models of smartphones at a lesser price by third parties on online shopping sites such as Amazon. For the purpose of this research, ‘Which’ went ahead and bought smartphones such as the Motorola X, Sony Xperia Z2, and Samsung Galaxy A5 2017. It was found that these smartphones were highly susceptible to numerous vulnerabilities which have been previously identified and discovered such as Stagefright, Bluefrag and the Joker Android malware. Interestingly, many of those devices running on an older version of Android released many years ago are denied any further upgrades. Therefore, for people who are still holding on to their old smartphones, it is advisable that they take proper precautionary measures such as backing up their data in a timely fashion and not side-loading apps on their system to protect themselves from such attacks.
For smartphones such as the Pixel range, they receive monthly security updates by Google. Also, the smartphones that come under the Android One programme are ensured security updates worth three years’ time which includes two upgrades to the OS.
One of the best examples of a vendor which joined the Android One programme is Nokia. According to Counterpoint Research, Nokia topped the chart of providing the latest Android updates to its devices as 96% of Nokia smartphones sold since Q3 2018 have received Android OS updates. Following close behind was Samsung and Xiaomi, which had 89 and 84 per cent of their users on the latest version respectively.
Android: A Heavily Fragmented Platform
Android fragmentation is still the biggest challenge for Google to tackle. This issue can be very closely tied to the fact that the Android platform is open-source which has led the platform to always be heavily fragmented. Vendors have almost been allowed free rein modify the platform however they like unlike that of the iPhone platform over which Apple exercises complete and strict control.
Android Updates: Blame Manufacturers?
While the open-source approach taken by Google allows various smartphone vendors to come up with a broad range of different models, it also comes with a big disadvantage for consumers. It is the manufacturers who have long been taking decisions related to a particular smartphone model’s life cycle and the updates it will be receiving. Fewer updates to a particular device, especially the ones that get eclipsed by the latest models, ensure the manufactures keep their costs low having to spend less when it comes to people hours.
Now, it is time Android smartphone manufacturers start operating under strict guidelines. They must start exercising a greater form of transparency when it comes to devices updates related to security as well as upgrades to better safeguard the consumers from all potential malicious attacks.