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Is That Old or Used Phone Safe to Use? Here’s What You Should Know


With immediately’s brand-new, top-end flagship telephones just like the iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Extremely costing over $1,000 and even Google’s Pixel 6 Pro coming in at an eye-watering $899, shopping for the most recent, biggest telephones is just not an choice for many people. It is tempting, then, to look as an alternative in direction of older or used telephones that you would be able to choose up on a budget from eBay. And why not? The {hardware} is often greater than able to dealing with what you want it to, and it is extra environmentally pleasant to maintain utilizing telephones for longer, relatively than sending them to landfill.

The issue is that telephones launched years in the past would possibly run outdated variations of Android, which suggests they usually haven’t got vital safety updates that may maintain you — and your knowledge — secure from prying eyes. Although the {hardware} itself is usually high quality to maintain utilizing, significantly in the event you do not crave the very best cameras or quickest processors, the dearth of safety assist implies that older telephones may very well be far much less secure. In case you’re involved about safety and privateness — and you have to be — listed below are some issues to contemplate.

Learn extraHere’s What $650 Buys You in Used Phones on eBay

What’s a safety patch for a cellphone OS? 

Every time hackers uncover a brand new gap in your cellphone’s software program to use, phone-makers often get it mounted, and that repair is distributed out to your cellphone to make it possible for no person can benefit from it. That is a safety patch. You will seemingly have obtained loads of them over time as cybercriminals are all the time looking for new methods to avoid the safety in your cellphone. 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, however it’s the factor that is maintaining your cellphone updated and guarded towards identified threats. 

Why do producers cease sending out safety patches?

Producers resembling Samsung, Sony, Google and OnePlus solely present assist to a cellphone for therefore lengthy. Every new handset that is launched and every new model of Android requires new risk evaluation and patching. That is a whole lot of work, and it implies that discovering and patching these holes for each single handset spanning years and years simply turns into unfeasible. 

The back of an HTC M8 phone

The HTC One M8, launched in 2014, is not formally supported and would not get safety patches.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Consequently, Google and the phone-makers finally 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 not obtain safety updates, which means that when a risk is detected on that cellphone, it merely will not be mounted. 

So is utilizing an out-of-date cellphone secure?

As Christoph Hebeisen, director of the safety intelligence firm Lookout, defined, “We don’t think about it secure to run a tool that doesn’t obtain safety patches. Important 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 prone to exploitation of identified vulnerabilities.”

In response to Hebeisen, a susceptible cellphone might permit full entry to all the pieces that is in your cellphone, together with your private and firm emails, contact info, your banking particulars or audio of your cellphone calls. A hacker might proceed to have entry to this info for so long as you proceed utilizing the compromised handset.

Paul Ducklin, principal analysis scientist at safety firm Sophos, agrees. “In case your cellphone has a software program vulnerability that crooks already know easy methods to exploit, for instance to steal knowledge or implant malware, then that vulnerability goes to be with you eternally,” he mentioned.

Learn extra: Best Portable Chargers and Power Banks for Android Phones in 2022

A picture showing the software update page of a Samsung phone

Test to see in case your cellphone has the most recent software program put in. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

How do I do know if my cellphone is simply too outdated?

Discovering out in case your cellphone continues to be supported and receiving safety patches usually is not easy. To start out, go into Settings and examine your software program updates. Set up the most recent model that is out there. Normally it’s going to offer you some indication of when the cellphone was final up to date. In case your cellphone says it has the most recent OS software program, however that newest model was put in many months and even years in the past, it is dangerous information. Your cellphone might be not supported. 

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

rule of thumb is {that a} cellphone will not be supported if it is two to a few years outdated. This varies from firm to firm, nonetheless. Google’s older Pixel telephones usually acquired three years of software program updates, however 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 not less than two years of updates for units. Apple, by comparability, nonetheless supplies software program updates for telephones going again virtually seven years, as a result of it has comparatively few fashions to handle. The newest model of iOS 15 might be put in on 2015’s iPhone 6S.

An image showing the last update of a Samsung phone

Regardless of having the most recent software program put in, this Galaxy S6’s final safety replace was utilized in 2018. That implies that there are two years of latest exploits that this cellphone is prone to.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Discovering out in case your Android cellphone is supported will contain some digging. I discovered Nokia’s tool for seeing updates of its phones after going via a collection of assist pages on its web site. Samsung despatched me its record after I contacted its PR staff, and it’s available online here. Google has a page that clearly tells you when your Pixel or Nexus cellphone 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 cellphone producer’s web site.

You won’t discover instantly in case your cellphone is old-fashioned. The obvious signal you are on outdated software program may be while you search for new apps to obtain. Many apps will merely be incompatible as a result of software program and {hardware} limitations in your cellphone and you will not have the ability to set up them. 

How can I inform if my cellphone has been hacked?

Whether or not you’d ever discover in case your cellphone’s safety was compromised is tough to say. Cybercriminals do not precisely make it identified they’ve accessed your gadget, so you will must search for indicators. Popups that may seem on the cellphone are a giant giveaway, as are any apps that instantly seem that you just 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 also can embody unusually excessive battery utilization and sluggish efficiency, however each of those may also be attributed to utilizing older {hardware} that degrades over time.

Learn extraBest Android VPNs of 2022

How can I maintain myself secure if I’ve an outdated cellphone? 

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

An image showing the Android N logo on a Samsung phone

The Galaxy S6 was launched in 2015, and is not formally supported by Samsung. Most telephones are solely supported for 2 to a few years. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First, you must make certain the cellphone has the most recent software program put in. In case you purchased it used, make certain to completely factory-reset the cellphone. Be sure that you solely obtain apps from the Google Play Retailer (relatively 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 may usually be a means that malicious software program weasels its means right into a cellphone.

You possibly can assist shield your private info by merely not giving an excessive amount of away within the first place. Do not do any banking on the cellphone, do not sync your organization electronic mail accounts and do not ship horny footage or have horny video chats till you are again on a protected gadget. (Even over a cellphone, it is vital to observe secure intercourse.) In response to Hebeisen, in the event you do not take such precautions, “this would possibly allow an attacker to watch and manipulate virtually all the pieces taking place on the gadget.” That is a chilly bathe, proper there.



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