According to the documents released by Wikileaks, the CIA exposed a couple dozen vulnerabilities within Google’s mobile operating software Android. Most of those vulnerabilities were mostly exposed on devices running Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, which was released late 2011. While many might assume most devices should have been updated to newer versions of Android, given the timeframe to move to 5.0 and beyond, Android’s problem of fragmentation leaves too many devices exposed. According to Google statistics, just over 30% of all Android devices are running some version of 4.0, and that accounts for a whopping 420 million devices. That’s as many users who are running Android Marshmallow, released in 2015.
Google’s Android is not similar to Apple’s iOS in that it’s an open-source platform. In 2011, in Android’s relative infancy, many manufacturers developed a customized version of the software to differentiate or better their devices over the competition. That made it extremely costly and difficult for Android to update its software for non Google made or designed devices, which is a reason behind a paltry 3% of all Android users being on the latest version of Android 7.0 and 7.1, Nougat. Only until late last month did the largest smartphone maker in the world, Samsung, get its flagship Galaxy S7 smartphone updated to Android 7.0 which was released in the fall of 2016 and carried the price tag to match. Having older versions of Android leaves users exposed to hacking from the CIA, and eventually from other sources too. While you may not be worried about what information the US government collects from your Android devices, you should worry about what the other hackers can do with your information. Photos, messages, credit card and bank information are the last things you want to share with a hacker.
What can you do about it? For starters, you should update your Android device now, and that goes for everyone. Updates include software patches that eliminate bugs and security vulnerabilities and is the main reason why you need to update your devices. Software updates for smartphones and tablets can be found within the Settings app, but will vary from manufacturer. If you don’t have any updates available for your device, or it updates to another version of Android 4.x, it’s time for you to invest in something new. Stick with Google’s latest smartphones and tablets will ensure the fastest update schedule amongst Androids, but making the jump to Apple iPads or iPhones is the surest way to keep yourself safe. According to Apple, over 95% of the devices it makes are running iOS 9 or later making it much harder for people to steal your information.
Whether you care or not about the government spying on you, you should care about closing up those security loopholes anyways.