Buying a used phone? That old version of Android might not be safe


Would you share photos like this if you knew that hackers could see everything on your phone?

Andrew Hoyle / ClearTips

With flagship phones like Samsung Galaxy s21 ultra And iPhone 12 Pro Max Costing more than $ 1,000, it is more enticing than ever to pick up a bargain, refurbished phone. But when you can pick up a used Samsung Galaxy, Sony or HTC phone that is of good quality for a very low price, is it really safe to use your phone?

Phones released years ago run older versions of Android. This may mean that they do not have significant security updates that can protect you and your data from prickling eyes. If you are concerned about security and privacy on your previously owned phone, here are some things you should consider.

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What is the security patch for phone OS?

Whenever hackers discover a new hole in your phone’s software to exploit, phone makers usually get it fixed, and fixed it to ensure that no one can take advantage of your phone. has gone. This is a security patch. You are likely to get a lot of them over time as cyber criminals are always trying to find new ways to circumvent security on your phone. It is a continuous cycle of identifying threats, resolving them, then finding the next one.

Most of the time, you will never know about it, but it is something that keeps your phone up to date and protects you from known threats.

Why do manufacturers stop sending security patches?

Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, Google and HTC only support a phone for so long. Every new handset that has been released and each new version of Android requires new threat assessment and patching. This is a matter of great use, and this means that it is not yet possible to find those holes and patch on them for every single handset spanning years and years.


The HTC One M8, released in 2014, is no longer officially supported and does not receive security patches.

Andrew Hoyle / ClearTips

As a result, Google and phone-makers eventually have to cut support for older handsets, usually once the device is two or three years old. Those handsets will no longer receive security updates, meaning that when a threat is detected on that phone, it will not be fixed.

So is the outside phone safe?

As Christoph Hebeissen, director of security intelligence company Lookout, explains, “We don’t consider it safe to operate a device that doesn’t receive a security patch. Significant security vulnerabilities become public knowledge every few weeks or months, and once A system runs out. Support, then users who continue to run it become susceptible to exploitation of known vulnerabilities. ”

According to Hebeisen, an unsecured phone can allow full access to everything on your phone, including your personal and company emails, contact information, your banking details or the audio of your phone call. A hacker can access this information as long as you continue to use the compromised handset.

Paul Ducklin, head research scientist at security company Sophos, said, “If your phone has a software vulnerability that the rogues already know how to exploit, for example stealing data or improvising malware, then that vulnerability Gonna be with you forever. ”

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Check to see if your phone has the latest software installed.

Andrew Hoyle / ClearTips

How do I know if my phone is old?

Finding out if your phone is still supported and often getting security patches is not straightforward. To get started, go to Settings and check your software update. Install the latest version. Usually this will give you some indication of when the phone was last updated. If your phone says it has the latest OS software, but that latest version was installed several months or years ago, this is bad news. Your phone is probably no longer supported.

Sadly, the producers don’t give you a big warning that tells you that when they have dropped support for the phone, you either find out through a rude awakening like I mentioned above or any other To get yourself out of the medium.

A good rule of thumb is that a phone will not be supported if it is two to three years old. Although this varies from company to company. For example, Google states that it provides security updates for Android versions 8.0, 8.1, 9.0 and 10. Its Pixel phones have received security updates for “at least three years” since they went on sale and Google also stated that manufacturers would have to provide at least two years of updates for the devices. Apple, by comparison, still provides software updates for phones going back five years, as there are relatively few models for its management. Most recent iOS 13 Can be installed on 2015 iPhone 6S ($ 450 on Boost Mobile).


The last security update of this Galaxy S6 was implemented in 2018, despite the latest software being installed. This means that there are two years of new exploits that are susceptible to this phone.

Andrew Hoyle / ClearTips

This will involve some digging to find out if your Android phone is supported. I found Nokia’s tool to see updates for my phone after going through a series of support pages on their website. I sent my list to Samsung after contacting my PR team, and it is available online here. Google has a page that clearly tells you that your Pixel or Nexus phone will lose security support. (Spoiler Alert: All Nexus phones and first-gen Pixel are out of Pixel 2 support ($ 130 at Walmart) Lose support this October.) The best place to start is with the support pages on your phone manufacturer’s website.

If your phone is out of date, you cannot immediately report. When you search for new applications to download, the most obvious indication is that you are on the old software. Many apps will simply be incompatible due to software and hardware limitations on your phone and you will not be able to install them.

How can I tell if my phone is hacked?

Whether you ever notice that the security of your phone has been compromised, it is difficult to say. Cybercriminals don’t really know that they have accessed your device, so you will need to see the signals. Popups that can appear on the phone are a big giveaway, as there is any app that suddenly appears that you haven’t downloaded.

Also watch for unexplained high data usage, as it could be that malicious applications are using too much data in the background. Other indicators may include unusually high battery usage and sluggish performance, but both of these can also be attributed to using older hardware that deteriorates over time.

How can I protect myself if I have an old phone?

As Hebesen says, the best way to protect yourself is to simply not use a phone that is no longer supported. If you’re short on money, you can’t upgrade yet or you’re temporarily using an older phone for whatever reason, there are some things you can do that can help.


The Galaxy S6 was released in 2015, making it five years old. Most phones are only supported for two to three years.

Andrew Hoyle / ClearTips

First of all, you should make sure that the phone has the latest software installed. If you’ve used it, be sure to factory-reset the phone completely. Make sure that you only download the app from the Google Play Store (from third-party or informal app store) and definitely avoid installing the app by downloading the APK file from the website. This can often be a way that malicious software makes its way into a phone.

You can help protect your personal information by not giving it too far at first. Do not do any banking on the phone, do not sync your company’s email accounts and do not send sexy photos or have sexy video chats until you return to a protected device. (Even on a phone, it is important to practice safe sex.) According to Hebeisen, if you do not take such precautions, “it allows an attacker to see almost everything that happens on the device and Can enable manipulation. ” This is a cold bath, right there.

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