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Security & privacy

Bad news, Android users: Your phone can probably be hacked via Wi-Fi

Not all security flaws are created equal. Some manage to go undetected for years and only surface once somebody gets creative enough to start poking holes in a system. Others are massive, zero-day vulnerabilities that threaten the security of entire product lines. This kind of bug, in particular, demands the most attention from security researchers — who work tirelessly to hunt them down and snuff them out before they spread far enough to do any major damage.

And that’s just the kind of bug that researchers have found hidden in the depths of one of the most popular processors in the world. This chip is found in several bestselling Android handhelds, and if its security flaw is exploited, a hacker can take control of the phone without even needing to touch it!

This bug is just the latest in a long string of security flaws and vulnerabilities that researchers have discovered in the past year. If you use an Android phone with an at-risk chip, we’ll be going over how the threat affects you, as well as how you can update your device with the latest patch.

A serious threat from within

Android phones featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon family of processor chips were recently discovered to be at risk for a major security vulnerability. This flaw was initially discovered by researchers at Tencent Blade — the cybersecurity arm of gaming giant Tencent, which are majority owners of the popular Fortnite franchise.

According to new reports released by Tencent Blade, the security flaw (now dubbed “QualPwn,”) is related to an issue with how Snapdragon-powered phones connect to local Wi-Fi networks. Thanks to the vulnerability, all a hacker would need to do is connect to the same Wi-Fi network and send a malicious data packet over the air in order to gain full access to a phone and its data.

So far, Tencent Blade claims there have been no known incidents featuring the QualPwn flaw in the wild, but they are nonetheless encouraging all Android users with affected products to update to the latest patch from Google — which addresses the flaws and removes the vulnerability.

Am I at risk? How do I update?

Since Qualcomm Snapdragons are among the most popular processors found in Android phones, an enormous swathe of devices are now vulnerable to this serious glitch.

Thankfully, manufacturers and software developers have been made aware of the issue — and a fix is now available to protect affected devices. Still, the fact that so many phones are potentially at risk for this bug paints a problematic picture for Android’s overall device security.

Nonetheless, updating Android OS on your device is simple — and a good rule of thumb is to frequently check for updates anyway. This keeps your phone on the latest edition of Android and puts you ahead of the curve in defending your device against emerging threats.

To update, you’ll want to open the Settings app on your phone (the one with the gear-shaped icon). Near the bottom of the page you arrive at, tap on System, then tap Advanced, and finally System Update. If you’re on an older version of Android, you can open Settings, then System, and tap About this phone if you don’t see an option for Advanced.




The menu you’ll land on will allow you to check for the latest update — and download it if it’s available. Make sure to follow any instructions that appear on your screen closely, and stay connected to power to prevent your device from shutting down mid-update.

Keeping your OS up to date with security patches is one of the most important bits of routine maintenance you can do for your phone.

As threats continue to emerge from across the web, keeping your device updated with the most recent software is one of the strongest weapons in your cybersecurity arsenal against hackers. Just make sure to check for any bugs or glitches that may be found on the latest update before downloading.

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