Researchers say some Android phone makers hide missed updates

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A research on security patches carried out in Germany says that the Android vendors who suggest their customers update the phone for latest security patches are not right.

The research firm tested about 1200 smartphones from makers like Google, Samsung, HTC, TCL and tested their flagship devices. The devices which use the processors from Taiwan's MediaTek miss out 9.7 patches from their phones. Here, I'm talking about regular updates and security patches. Android has a lot of manufacturers, and hardly any OEM can keep up with Google's pace of releasing security patches.

Security Research Labs stressed that exploiting Android handsets is still hard, but as hackers become incentivised to target smartphones, ensuring devices are kept current with patches is important. But that number starts creeping up higher as we look at hardware from LG, HTC, Motorola, and ZTE - the latter's phones averaging four or more absent patches. The company further stated that in some cases, patches might have been missing because the phone vendors responded by simply removing the vulnerable feature from the phone rather than patch it.

"Our large study of Android phones finds that most Android vendors regularly forget to include some patches, leaving parts of the ecosystem exposed to the underlying risks", the SRL website preview says. In other cases, there was no reasonable explanation for why some phones claimed to patch certain vulnerabilities when in fact they were missing multiple critical patches.

ZTE and TCL appear to be among the worst offenders, while Google, Samsung and Sony are the best at patching.

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The researchers told Greenberg that they examined 1,200 handsets for evidence of every Android security patch released in 2017. And if a company making those chips isn't keeping up with patches, it becomes quite hard for the manufacturers of the phones running them to fully secure their devices.

The researchers noted that the SoCs that the smartphones use may be the cause of the issue.

According to SRL, missed security patches were discovered on a wide range of different handsets across manufacturers. If you are interested in seeing what patches your device is missing, the team at SRL labs has created an Android application that analyzes your phone's firmware for installed and missing security 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 decision to choose one smartphone brand over the other is also influenced by how soon the manufacturer is rolling out regular security and software updates. 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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