Smartphones have become such an everyday commodity that we tend to forget that they’re technically computers. Despite their small size and range of functions, the internal materials and design of a phone are actually quite similar to that of a laptop. As a result, these devices are vulnerable to many of the same threats that plague computers and desktop operating systems.
So, what are manufacturers and developers to do? Just as companies like Microsoft release patches to fix security flaws as they appear, phone-makers and software designers are constantly developing updates as well. These system fixes can address security holes, erase vulnerabilities or faulty code, and potentially neutralize threats before they have a chance to spread.
If you own an Android device, you’re already aware that the world’s most popular operating system faces a unique set of threats all its own. Now, Google is releasing a new set of security patches said to address a number of “critical” flaws that can put your phone in danger. We have the latest on these new updates, along with how to download them to protect yourself.
Why is Google releasing security patches for Android?
Google’s releases are typically scarce on details regarding security threats, but a bulletin posted on the official Android Source website outlined a number of new threats facing Android phones. Of these threats, eight were ranked as “critical” by Google — meaning the need for an update is urgent compared to an ordinary software upgrade.
The most severe of the issues listed in the bulletin takes advantage of a hole in Android’s built-in media framework — coding that lets you play music and movies when browsing online. According to Google, a hacker with a custom piece of malware disguised as a media file could exploit the flaw and gain privileged access to the device in question.
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Thankfully, there’s been no reports yet of anyone utilizing the flaw, but Google isn’t taking any chances. It’s released two “levels” of patches for consumers: one for Google-made devices like the Pixel, and one for every other manufacturer.
The first level patch for Google-made devices will be rolling out in the next week or so, while the rest of us can expect to see patches available over the next few months. This is so every manufacturer can optimize the patch for their own unique systems.
How can I update my device with the latest Android patch?
Right now, the majority of users may not be able to update to this patch, but a good rule of thumb is to frequently check for updates anyway.
To do so, 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.
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The menu you arrive at will allow you to check for the latest update — and download it if available. Make sure to follow any instructions that appear on your screen carefully, and stay plugged into power to prevent your device from powering off mid-update.
Keeping your software up to date with security patches is one of the most important things you can do for your smartphone. As threats continue to evolve, keeping your device on the cutting edge of defense is your strongest tool in the fight against hackers. Just make sure to research any risks or glitches associated with a newly released update before downloading.