Three simple steps for keeping your Android smartphone or tablet secure

Despite there being well over a billion Android devices currently in use, when it comes to security it seems that most owners are left confused and bewildered.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Another day, another vulnerability with a cutesy name that afflicts almost a billion Android devices. I'll be honest with you've I've lost track of the number of Android vulnerabilities what have affected almost a billion devices.

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This time, it is a bug called "Quadrooter" making the headlines. Quadrooter is a flaw affecting Android phones and tablets equipped with Qualcomm chips, that, when properly leveraged, can give a hacker full control of a device.

As usual, there's a patch on the way, but as anyone who has been involved with Android will know, that patch will only make it to a fraction of the 900 million or so affected devices. That's because handset makers and carriers are standing between Android owners and their updates, and are turning what should be a safe platform into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities.

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So, how do you do your bit to reduce the Android toxic hellstew? It's actually quite straightforward:

Step #1

Buy a new Android device that's running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and that gets updated rapidly. By far the best route to take to get regular updates is to go for a Google Nexus device, as these devices are always the first to get patches and new releases of Android. Also, since these devices are unlocked, there's no carrier to get in the way.

Beyond that, it's best to pick a manufacturer that has promised to release monthly updates, such as LG or Samsung (but not Motorola).

Step #2

Apply the updates. Don't just let them pile up. Patches don't protect you unless they are downloaded and applied.

Step #3

When your Android or tablet gets to the point where it no longer gets any updates, put a hammer through it and send it to the recycling center. Don't mess about with third-party patches or third-party antivirus programs, because these are just Band-Aids over what will rapidly become a gaping wound.

People think I'm being harsh in saying this, and that I should instead point people to something like CyanogenMod or such, but I stand by my advice. Scrap the device. That way it can cause no more harm. Don't like this advice? Well, don't yell at me. Go yell at Google or the manufacturer. I didn't build your device, I didn't buy it, and I didn't choose to make it obsolete.

If you want to kid yourself that you can keep it safe, or that the end to updates doesn't mean it's obsolete, go ahead and kid yourself. Just don't ask me to participate in the lie.

How long should you expect an Android device to last?

That's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string, but Google says that Nexus devices will bet security patches for "3 years from availability or 18 months from when the Google Store last sold the device," whichever is longest.

As for other manufacturers, well, the issue of device lifespan is very unclear, which is yet another reason why I think going for a Nexus device si the better option.

The bottom line

Smartphones and tablets are disposable consumer electronics devices manufactured by companies operating at the thin end of the profitability wedge. They're not designed to last forever. In fact, until recently, there were plenty of manufacturers who never gave a thought to pushing Android updates out to users.

Manufacturers are only just now getting to grips with the issue of updates, and if you want to be in a position where you get updates first, and you get a clear roadmap for how long the device is supported, I suggest you stick with Nexus devices.

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