The researchers found out that certain phones would show itself patched up to a certain date, but in reality have missed as many as a dozen patches from that period, which in turn makes the device vulnerable to hacking. When Google creates new security updates each month, it trickles them down to device makers that get the ultimate say on how and when to update their phones.
Researchers Jakob Kell and Karsten Nohl from Security Research Labs highlighted the problem with relying on manufacturers to issue patches promptly.Wired reported that the team tested 1,200 Android handsets from all the major manufacturers over a two-year period, checking if the manufacturers had issued the patches as advertised.
It's already very much known that the Android phones often get the most recent upgrades after several weeks (even after months), after being officially released by Google. "Probably for marketing reasons, they just set the patch level to nearly an arbitrary date, whatever looks best", Nohl said.
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Motorola was joined in the three-to-four-missed-patch purgatory by HTC, Huawei and LG.
SRL based its research on the firmware on 1,200 Android handsets and checked for every patch rolled out in 2017.
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Not all Android devices are equal in terms of security. Every patch in the update works as a layer of protection, The more you have, the better for your device.
The Android ecosystem has a long-standing reputation of haphazard security, with regular headliner bugs.
In addition, Google is working to improve Nohl's app so that it can identify Android phones installed with "alternative security updates" that the company says may have gone undetected from his research.
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The company also argued that some missing patches could be to do with a specific phone not offering an affected feature, or a feature being removed entirely as opposed to patching it. The company tried to do some damage control by listing its mechanisms like Google Play Protect which are being developed to ensure an extra security layer. But they're not just flat-out exclusions: it's been found that many manufacturers lie about an update containing a patch when it doesn't. "These layers of security-combined with the tremendous diversity of the Android ecosystem-contribute to the researchers' conclusions that remote exploitation of Android devices remains challenging".