Is it secure to maintain utilizing an outdated or pre-owned Android telephone?

Is it safe to keep using an old or pre-owned Android phone?

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

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With model new, top-end telephones just like the iPhone 13 Professional or Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely costing over $1,000, it is tempting to choose up an older or a used telephone on a budget. However whilst you can seize a pre-owned Samsung Galaxy, Sony or HTC telephone that appears first rate for the value, is it secure to make use of them? 

It is each cost-effective and extra environmentally pleasant to maintain utilizing telephones for longer. The issue is that telephones launched years in the past run outdated variations of Android, which suggests they typically haven’t got crucial safety updates that may preserve you — and your information — secure from prying eyes. Although the {hardware} itself could also be wonderful to maintain utilizing, the dearth of safety assist signifies that older telephones might be far much less secure. In the event you’re involved about safety and privateness, listed here are some issues to contemplate.

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

What’s a safety patch for a telephone OS? 

Every time hackers uncover a brand new gap in your telephone’s software program to use, phone-makers often get it fastened, and that repair is distributed out to your telephone to be sure that no person can make the most of it. That is a safety patch. You may seemingly have obtained 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, nevertheless it’s the factor that is maintaining your telephone updated and guarded towards recognized threats. 

Why do producers cease sending out safety patches?

Producers reminiscent of 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 menace evaluation and patching. That is a variety 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

In consequence, Google and the phone-makers ultimately have to chop off assist for older handsets, often 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 menace 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, explains, “We don’t take into account it secure to run a tool that doesn’t obtain safety patches. Crucial safety vulnerabilities change into public data each few weeks, or months, and as soon as a system is out of assist, then customers who proceed to run it change into vulnerable to exploitation of recognized vulnerabilities.”

In response to Hebeisen, a weak telephone may enable 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 how one can exploit, for instance to steal information or implant malware, then that vulnerability goes to be with you eternally.”

Learn extra: Greatest transportable chargers and energy banks to purchase for Android in 2020


Verify 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 simply too outdated?

Discovering out in case your telephone remains to be supported and receiving safety patches typically is not simple. To start out, go into Settings and verify your software program updates. Set up the most recent model. Often it’s going to provide you with 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 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.

An excellent rule of thumb is {that a} telephone will now not be supported if it is two to a few years outdated. This varies from firm to firm, nevertheless. Google’s older Pixel telephones sometimes acquired three years of software program updates, nevertheless it upped that to 5 years of assured updates with the most recent Pixel 6 and 6 Professional. Google additionally mandates that producers should present at the very least two years of updates for gadgets. Apple, by comparability, nonetheless supplies software program updates for telephones going again over 5 years, as a result of it has comparatively few fashions to handle. The most recent iOS 15.1 could be put in on 2015’s iPhone 6S ($210 at eBay).


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 latest 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 instrument for seeing updates of its telephones after going by a sequence of assist pages on its web site. Samsung despatched me its listing after I contacted its PR crew, 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 primary three generations of Pixel — together with 2018’s Pixel 3 — are all out of assist.) 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 is perhaps whenever you search for new apps to obtain. Many apps will merely be incompatible as a result of software program and {hardware} limitations in your telephone and you will not be capable to 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 tough to say. Cybercriminals do not precisely make it recognized they’ve accessed your machine, so you will have to search for indicators. Popups which may seem on the telephone are a giant giveaway, as are any apps that all of a sudden seem that you simply did not obtain.

Look out for unexplained excessive information utilization too, because it might be that malicious apps are utilizing a variety of information within the background. Different indicators may 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 preserve myself secure if I’ve an outdated telephone? 

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


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

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First, it’s best to ensure the telephone has the most recent software program put in. In the event you purchased it used, ensure to totally factory-reset the telephone. Make sure 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 an internet site. This will typically be a means that malicious software program weasels its means right into a telephone.

You possibly can assist shield 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 electronic mail accounts and do not ship attractive photos or have attractive video chats till you are again on a protected machine. (Even over a telephone, it is essential to apply secure intercourse.) In response to Hebeisen, should you do not take such precautions, “this would possibly allow an attacker to watch and manipulate virtually all the pieces taking place on the machine.” That is a chilly bathe, proper there.

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