3 Common Android Cyber Risks & How to Minimize Them
Consumer research group Which? recently discovered that over one billion mobile devices running the older version of the Android operating system are at risk of attack from cybercriminals.
Using data from Google Which? found that around 40 percent of Android users across the world were not receiving critical security updates from Google. This situation places Android users at a considerably higher risk of ransomware, data theft, and other malware attacks than iOS users.
Because of Android’s open-source nature, manufacturers often develop their own, slightly tweaked versions of the operating system. The result is a fractured market where certain device producers are better at making sure customers get the latest updates and features while others are not as reliable.
Google’s own data shows that 42.1 percent of worldwide Android users are running version 6.0 of the operating system or below. And the Android security bulletin noted there were no security patches issued in 2019 for versions below 7.0.
While Google is gaining some ground in the security stakes, particularly with the upcoming release of Android 11, not all users can run this OS on their devices and there are important risks that Android users have to be aware of.
Here are three key cybersecurity considerations and ways to minimize the risk.
The Risk: Malware
The Which? team asked antivirus lab AV-Comparatives to deliberately infect several devices with malware to see how successful it was. The phones tested were from well-known producers and included a Samsung Galaxy A5, a Google Nexus 5, and a Sony Xperia Z2.
All of the tested phones were infected and in some cases, multiple infections occurred, further illustrating the risk of malware on Android devices not receiving patches while running older operating systems.
The Solution: Malware Protection
Ideally, critical security patches fix the vulnerabilities, but Google has been slow to respond to questions from Which?, the BBC, and others. Users should consider investing in their own malware protection from a reputable company such as Malwarebytes and avoid downloading apps from anywhere other than the Google Play Store.
The Risk: Data Theft
Inherent vulnerabilities also increase the risk of data theft through unpatched access points or malware designed to steal key personal or financial data.
The Solution: VPN Protection
Encrypting information at all times is one of the best ways for users running older Android OSs to keep their data secure. A VPN app on your Android device means data transmissions are kept secure and safe from any prying eyes.
The Risk: Viruses
While any device is at some risk of viruses, those with Android 8.0 and below are particularly susceptible.
The Solution: Antivirus Software and Vigilance
Investing in a high-quality, third-party antivirus app is essential for Android users with older devices. Although the choice is somewhat limited by the age of the device, there are still options. Additionally, users should be aware of suspicious text or MMS messages. Unfortunately, the lack of security support from Google for older devices and operating systems will remain an issue for users in the coming years. While upgrading to a newer, more expensive model is an option for some, it remains out of the reach of many others, making key cybersecurity measures a must.