That used or refurbished Android telephone could be unsafe: 6 issues to know


Would you share footage like this in case you knew hackers may see all the pieces in your telephone?

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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

Telephones launched years in the past run outdated variations of Android. Which will effectively imply that they do not have crucial safety updates that may maintain you — and your knowledge — protected from prying eyes. In the event you’re involved about safety and privateness in your beforehand owned telephone, listed below are some issues it’s best to think about.

Learn extraThis is what $650 buys you in used telephones on eBay

What’s a safety patch for a telephone OS? 

At any time when hackers uncover a brand new gap in your telephone’s software program to take advantage of, phone-makers normally get it mounted, and that repair is distributed out to your telephone to make it possible for no one can reap the benefits of it. That is a safety patch. You may doubtless have acquired loads of them over time as cybercriminals are at all times looking for new methods to avoid the safety in your telephone. It is a continuous cycle of figuring out threats, fixing them, then discovering the following one.

More often than not, you will by no means find out about it, but it surely’s the factor that is conserving your telephone updated and guarded towards identified threats. 

Why do producers cease sending out safety patches?

Producers similar to Samsung, Sony, Google and HTC solely present assist to a telephone for thus lengthy. Every new handset that is launched and every new model of Android require new risk evaluation and patching. That is a whole 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 does not get safety patches.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Because of this, Google and the phone-makers ultimately have to chop off assist for older handsets, normally as soon as a tool will get to be two or three years outdated. These handsets then will now not obtain safety updates, which means that when a risk is detected on that telephone, it merely will not be mounted. 

So is utilizing an out-of-date telephone protected?

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

In response to Hebeisen, a weak telephone may permit full entry to all the pieces 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, saying, “In case your telephone has a software program vulnerability that crooks already know tips on how to exploit, for instance to steal knowledge or implant malware, then that vulnerability goes to be with you perpetually.”

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Examine to see in case your telephone has the most recent software program put in. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

How do I do know if my telephone is old-fashioned?

Discovering out in case your telephone remains to be supported and receiving safety patches typically is not easy. To start out, go into Settings and verify your software program updates. Set up the most recent model. Normally it’s going to offer you some indication of when the telephone was final up to date. In case your telephone 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 dangerous information. Your telephone might be now not supported. 

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

An excellent rule of thumb is {that a} telephone 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 obtainable for Android variations 8.0, 8.1, 9.Zero and 10. Its Pixel telephones get safety updates for “at the very least three years” from after they went on sale and Google additionally mandates that producers should present at the very least two years of updates for units. Apple, by comparability, nonetheless offers software program updates for telephones going again 5 years, as a result of it has comparatively few fashions to handle. The most recent iOS 13 could be put in on 2015’s iPhone 6S ($100 at Again Market).


Regardless of 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 telephone is vulnerable to.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Discovering out in case your Android telephone is supported will contain some digging. I discovered Nokia’s device for seeing updates of its telephones after going by means of a collection of assist pages on its web site. Samsung despatched me its checklist after I contacted its PR staff, and it is obtainable on-line right here. Google has a web page that clearly tells you when your Pixel or Nexus telephone 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) shedding assist this October.) Your greatest place to start out 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 obvious signal you are on outdated software program could be once you search for new apps to obtain. Many apps will merely be incompatible because of the software program and {hardware} limitations in your telephone and you will not be capable of set up them. 

How can I inform if my telephone has been hacked?

Whether or not 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 machine, so you will must search for indicators. Popups that may seem on the telephone are a giant giveaway, as are any apps that out of the blue seem that you simply did not obtain.

Look out for unexplained excessive knowledge utilization too, because it may very well be that malicious apps are utilizing a whole lot of knowledge within the background. Different indicators may also embody unusually excessive battery utilization and sluggish efficiency, however each of those can be attributed to utilizing older {hardware} that degrades over time.

How can I maintain myself protected if I’ve an outdated telephone? 

As Hebeisen says, one of the best ways to maintain your self protected is solely to not use a telephone that is now not supported. In the event you’re brief on cash, cannot afford to improve simply but otherwise you’re utilizing an older telephone quickly for no matter motive, there are a few issues you are able to do that might 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’s best to ensure that the telephone has the most recent software program put in. In the event you purchased it used, ensure that to totally factory-reset the telephone. Be certain that you solely obtain apps from the Google Play Retailer (reasonably than from third-party or unofficial app shops) and definitely keep away from putting in apps by downloading the APK file from a web site. This could typically be a approach that malicious software program weasels its approach right into a telephone.

You may assist defend your private data by merely not giving an excessive amount of away within the first place. Do not do any banking on the telephone, do not sync your organization e mail accounts and do not ship attractive footage or have attractive video chats till you are again on a protected machine. (Even over a telephone, it is necessary to follow protected intercourse.) In response to Hebeisen, in case you do not take such precautions, “this would possibly allow an attacker to watch and manipulate virtually all the pieces occurring on the machine.” That is a chilly bathe, proper there.

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