Tech

Some Android OEMs Reportedly Skipping Security Patches

Some Android OEMs Reportedly Skipping Security Patches

Latest research at Security Research Laboratory in Germany has discovered that many vendors of android are wrongly informing customers that their devices are continuing the most recent updates.

Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell of Security Research Labs spoke with Wired this week, outlining a two year long research effort in to 1200 Android devices.

Most non-Google Android phone makers (except for Sony) were once bad at keeping up with security patches. "Probably for marketing reasons, they just set the patch level to nearly an arbitrary date, whatever looks best", Nohl is quoted as saying.

Security patches on third-party devices has been an ongoing issue for Google and its Android operating system. Leaving any holes unpatched weakens the overall security of a device.

Motorola was joined in the three-to-four-missed-patch purgatory by HTC, Huawei and LG.

Further complicating the matter is the pure inconsistency of which devices get what quality of treatment: the Galaxy J5 (2016) honestly told consumers about its hit-and-miss patch record while the Galaxy J3 (2016) claimed to have every patch it received, but actually lacked 12 of them - two of them were of "critical" importance.

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Some of the missed patches are expected to be made on accident, but Nohl and Lell came across certain phones where things just didn't add up.

While many of these missed security patches may not be inherently risky in isolation, hackers typically chain together multiple security holes to reach their goal, taking over devices and stealing data. SRL notes that MediaTek was the biggest offender for chip-level patch omissions - those ended up going up the chain to the OEMs and, thus, were missing from the overall software updates. While Android users have expressed a general displeasure over delayed patches, blatantly lying about updates is something new, and leaves the smartphones vulnerable to known hacking techniques.

NOhl said in an interview on Thursday that, the patching problems that occur on smartphones can be blamed due to the complexity of the Android ecosystem and poor quality control.

"Security updates are one of many layers used to protect Android devices and users", said Scott Roberts, security lead for Android products, in a statement to Wired. By showing users that these patches were installed when they weren't, owners believe that their handsets are safer than they really are. A German research firm, Security Research Labs have revealed that most of the smartphone makers fail to roll out security patches to their users and on many occasions they also skip it. Built-in platform protections, such as application sandboxing, and security services, such as Google Play Protect, are just as important. And Android's fragmentation is a problem that remains unsolved.

The researchers found patches were missing from a wide range of handsets across a variety of makers.


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