How to find out how 'safe/unsafe' your Android smartphone is

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Android mobile makers have been deceiving users about their smartphones' security against malware and hacking vulnerabilities. According to a two-year study conducted by Security Research Labs (SRL) on more than 1,200 Android phones, many are missing security patches.

The patch gaps and bugs are found in the chips rather than in its operating system.

The Google Pixel 2 XL running on the first Android P Developer Preview with March 2018 Security Patches. For example, Samsung's 2016 J5 accurately reported what was and wasn't installed, but its 2016 J3 said all patches were up to date when 12 weren't actually installed. This is incredibly simple to fake-even you or I could do it on a rooted device by modifying ro.build.version.security_patch in build.prop.

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Even when updates were available, they might not be what they seem. While Nohl and Lell found, on average, between zero to one missed patches since October 2017 on each Samsung, Google and Sony phone they tested, they found between three and four missed patches on the Motorola phones.

One of the interesting revelations from the research is that even major vendors such as Xiaomi and Nokia (which promise swifter updates) had on an average between one and three missing patches, whereas HTC, Motorola, and LG had missed between three and four patches. But the Samsung J3 (2016) claimed to have every 2017 Android patch installed when in truth it had missed 12 updates, including a pair that were considered "critical" to keeping the handset safe and secure.

ZTE and TCL appear to be among the worst offenders, while Google, Samsung and Sony are the best at patching. Those with Samsung processors skipped over few patches while models using MediaTek chips missed nearly 10 patches, on average.

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Your Android phone may not be on the level when it tells you it's up to date on software, with security researchers warning that even device-makers releasing relatively timely updates could in fact be missing out security updates. Does that necessarily mean that TCL and ZTE are at fault? Lesser known manufacturers, on the other hand, missed out on many more. Nevertheless it still remains that according to SRL, patch updates were still listed as being up to date when they weren't, which might lead some users to wonder going forward if their device has actually been updated with the latest security fixes.

Which smartphone maker skipped how many patches?

There's no word yet on how exactly Google plans to prevent this situation in the future as there aren't any mandated checks in place from Google to ensure that devices are running the security patch level they claim they are running. The problem with Android is that while Google may push out regular software updates, it is left to these manufacturers to push them out to their devices. All of the requisite permissions for the app and the need to access them can be viewed here. Enter your email to be subscribed to our newsletter.

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