Is That Old or Used Phone Safe to Use? Here’s What You Should Know

With immediately’s brand-new, top-end flagship telephones just like the iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costing over $1,000 and even Google’s Pixel 6 Pro coming in at an eye-watering $899, shopping for the newest, biggest telephones is solely not an possibility for many people. It’s tempting, then, to look as a substitute in direction of older or used telephones that you may decide up on a budget from eBay. And why not? The {hardware} is often greater than able to dealing with what you want it to, and it is extra environmentally pleasant to maintain utilizing telephones for longer, somewhat than sending them to landfill.

The downside is that telephones launched years in the past may run outdated variations of Android, which suggests they usually haven’t got vital safety updates that may maintain you — and your knowledge — secure from prying eyes. Though the {hardware} itself is commonly tremendous to maintain utilizing, significantly when you do not crave one of the best cameras or quickest processors, the dearth of safety assist implies that older telephones might be far much less secure. If you are involved about safety and privateness — and you need to be — listed below are some issues to think about.

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What is a safety patch for a telephone OS? 

Whenever hackers uncover a brand new gap in your telephone’s software program to exploit, phone-makers often get it fastened, and that repair is distributed out to your telephone to make it possible for no one can benefit from it. That’s a safety patch. You’ll doubtless have acquired loads of them over time as cybercriminals are at all times making an attempt to discover new methods to circumvent the safety in your telephone. It’s a continuing cycle of figuring out threats, fixing them, then discovering the following one.

Most of the time, you will by no means find out about it, however it’s the factor that is preserving your telephone up to date and guarded in opposition to identified threats. 

Why do producers cease sending out safety patches?

Manufacturers similar to Samsung, Sony, Google and OnePlus solely present assist to a telephone for thus lengthy. Each new handset that is launched and every new model of Android requires new risk evaluation and patching. That’s a number of work, and it implies that discovering and patching these holes for each single handset spanning years and years simply turns into unfeasible. 

The back of an HTC M8 phone

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


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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

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

As Christoph Hebeisen, director of the safety intelligence firm Lookout, defined, “We don’t think about it secure to run a tool that doesn’t obtain safety patches. Critical safety vulnerabilities turn into public information each few weeks, or months, and as soon as a system is out of assist, then customers who proceed to run it turn into vulnerable to exploitation of identified vulnerabilities.”

According to Hebeisen, a weak telephone may permit full entry to all the things that is in your telephone, together with your private and firm emails, contact data, your banking particulars or audio of your telephone 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. “If your telephone has a software program vulnerability that crooks already know the way to exploit, for instance to steal knowledge or implant malware, then that vulnerability goes to be with you ceaselessly,” he mentioned.

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A picture showing the software update page of a Samsung phone

Check to see in case your telephone has the newest software program put in. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

How do I do know if my telephone is just too previous?

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

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

A superb rule of thumb is {that a} telephone will not be supported if it is two to three years previous. This varies from firm to firm, nonetheless. Google’s older Pixel telephones usually received three years of software program updates, however it upped that to 5 years of assured updates with the newest Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. 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 nearly seven years, as a result of it has comparatively few fashions to handle. The newest model of iOS 15 could be put in on 2015’s iPhone 6S.

An image showing the last update of a Samsung phone

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


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Finding out in case your Android telephone is supported will contain some digging. I discovered Nokia’s tool for seeing updates of its phones after going by a sequence of assist pages on its web site. Samsung despatched me its record 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 telephone will lose safety assist. (Spoiler alert: All Nexus telephones and the primary three generations of Pixel — together with 2018’s Pixel 3 — are all out of assist.) Your finest place to begin is with the assist pages in your telephone producer’s web site.

You may not discover instantly in case your telephone is old-fashioned. The most evident signal you are on previous software program may be once you search for new apps to obtain. Many apps will merely be incompatible due to the software program and {hardware} limitations in your telephone and you will not give you the option to set up them. 

How can I inform if my telephone has been hacked?

Whether you’d ever discover in case your telephone’s safety was compromised is troublesome to say. Cybercriminals do not precisely make it identified they’ve accessed your gadget, so you will want to search for indicators. Popups which may seem on the telephone are an enormous giveaway, as are any apps that all of a sudden seem that you just did not obtain.

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

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How can I maintain myself secure if I’ve an previous telephone? 

As Hebeisen says, one of the best ways to maintain your self secure is solely to not use a telephone that is not supported. If you are brief on cash, cannot afford to improve simply but or you are utilizing an older telephone briefly for no matter cause, there are a few issues you are able to do that would assist. 

An image showing the Android N logo on a Samsung phone

The Galaxy S6 was launched in 2015, and is not formally supported by Samsung. Most telephones are solely supported for 2 to three years. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First, you must be sure the telephone has the newest software program put in. If you acquire it used, be sure to totally factory-reset the telephone. Ensure that you just solely obtain apps from the Google Play Store (somewhat than from third-party or unofficial app shops) and definitely keep away from putting in apps by downloading the APK file from an internet site. This can usually be a means that malicious software program weasels its means right into a telephone.

You may 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 telephone, 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 gadget. (Even over a telephone, it is vital to follow secure intercourse.) According to Hebeisen, when you do not take such precautions, “this may allow an attacker to observe and manipulate nearly all the things occurring on the gadget.” That’s a chilly bathe, proper there.

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