A noted privacy organization is praising Google for allowing a software with a potential privacy breach to be disabled on Android phones.
It is the Electronic Frontier Foundation that this week noted Google has added to some products the ability to switch off the “2G” cell phone operations.
“This is a fantastic feature that will provide some protection from cell site simulators, an invasive police surveillance technology employed through the country,” the report said.
“Now Apple needs to implement this feature as well, for the safety of their customers.”
2G is the second generation of mobile communications and it was developed in the early 1990s.
“It’s an old technology from a time when standards bodies did not account for certain risk scenarios such as rogue cell towers and the need for strong encryption. As years have gone by, many vulnerabilities have been discovered in 2G,” the EFF reported.
“It uses weak encryption between the tower and device that can be cracked in real time by an attacker to intercept calls or text messages,” the report said. And 2G has no authentication, which allows anyone to impersonate a real 2G tower.
“Cell-site simulators sometimes work this way. They can exploit security flaws in 2G in order to intercept your communications. Even though many of the security flaws in 2G have been fixed in 4G, more advanced cell-site simulators can downgrade your connection to 2G, making your phone susceptible to the above attacks. This makes every user vulnerable—from journalists and activists to medical professionals, government officials, and even law enforcement,” EFF reported.
The feature is not available on all the hardware, but where it is, there’s an option in “Settings-Network & Internet-SIMS-Allow 2G” that lets a consumer turn that off.
The EFF noted, “We are very pleased with the steps that Google has taken here to protect users from vulnerabilities in 2G, and though there is a lot more work to be done this will ensure that many people can finally receive a basic level of protection.”
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