Massive Android security scare – is your smartphone safe?

31/08/16 More than 900 million smartphone handsets could be susceptible to hacking after researchers found a major security loophole in their software.

Android Security

A team investigating software pre-installed on processors made by US firm Qualcomm found that glitches in code on software could open the door to hackers. This could potentially lead to your phone – and the data and personal info stored within it – being compromised by ‘malicious apps’.

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This sort of thing is an increasing worry in a world where we live more and more of our lives through our phone. So this week I’m looking at what you can do to protect your valuable personal information from hackers, and what you can do if your phone is compromised.

Which phones are affected?

  • BlackBerry Priv and Dtek50
  • Blackphone 1 and Blackphone 2
  • Google Nexus 5X, Nexus 6 and Nexus 6P
  • HTC One, HTC M9 and HTC 10
  • LG G4, LG G5, and LG V10
  • New Moto X by Motorola
  • OnePlus One, OnePlus 2 and OnePlus 3
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung S7 Edge (but US versions only)
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra

No attacks yet… but that doesn’t mean they won’t come…
Although there is currently no evidence that any online thieves have been exploiting these weak spots, Michael Shaulov, head of mobility product management at Checkpoint, the company that found the bugs, has warned that it’s only a matter of time: “I'm pretty sure you will see these vulnerabilities being used in the next three to four months," he told the BBC recently.

The fix is in…
Qualcomm (the maker of the vulnerable chipsets) has created fixes (otherwise known as patches) patches for the potential holes in its defences and has passed these on to phone companies and network operators.

What’s unclear is how many of these have actually updated their customers’ phones…

How to check if you’re vulnerable
There are a few things you can do to make sure your data is safe.

  • Make sure your phone is as up to date as possible by checking that you have the latest version of your operating system installed
  • Get in touch with the manufacturer of your phone, your network operator or whoever sold you your phone and find out if they’ve issued the correct updates
  • If not, make sure you ask them to take remedial action as soon as possible
  • Only install apps you’re sure are fully legitimate
  • Monitor. The most likely negative outcome from your phone being compromise will be the theft of personal details… so if you notice any unusual transactions on your bank account – act quickly.

What happens if your services go down?

Internet service provider going down

Without a working home internet connection, you’re going to be limited to mobile phone data – or nothing at all if you live in an area with no 3g or 4g signal.

Having no broadband when you are paying a monthly fee is a very frustrating experience. Depending on who your service provider is will affect your outcome. Contact your service provider as soon as possible to alert them to the service failure. If you are unhappy with your broadband provider’s response, you should contact their customer services department via email, giving clear details of your case - such as what happened, when and why you are complaining. Depending on the length of time the service was not available for, you can ask for a refund or service credits.

Bank going down
Most financial institutions will work to ensure that online banking is always available, but sometimes a site will need to be taken down for maintenance – this is usually done in the middle of the night. If you experience issues when trying to reach the website at another time, check that your network, computer or internet browser are not to blame. If you still have an issue, I recommend calling the company’s support line.

If a bank’s gone down due to a system failure or a hacking attack (as has happened twice this year with HSBC), then you can at least expect the bank to be generous and waive any fees incurred due to a service outage. There’s no firm legislation surrounding this, but you can always take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you feel you’re not being offered the recompense you’re due.

Mobile provider failure
No mobile phone service when you are paying a monthly fee is a very frustrating experience or even if you are on pay as you go. You should contact your service provider as soon as possible to alert them to the service failure, although if extensive they may already be aware and you can often see this trending on Twitter. If you are unhappy with the issue you should contact their customer services department and write giving clear details of your case - such as what happened, when, and why you are complaining.

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