While some corners of the country are vehemently debating the dangers of 5G mobile technology, a much older mobile signal poses an actual threat to Android and iOS phones.
As technology moves ahead with better delivery, coverage and download speeds, the spectrum will inevitably become too crowded or outdated to accommodate them all. Before 5G, 4G, and LTE, the most common mobile connections were 3G and its predecessor, 2G.
Those signals have all been phased out, with modern mobile phones connecting to the blistering-fast 5G. But hackers have found a way to exploit the old tech. Keep reading to find out how they’re targeting your phone and ways to block them.
Here’s the backstory
The latest phones use 4G or 5G networks, depending on your model.
But few people know that almost any mobile phone can still connect to a 2G signal. Since 2G has much weaker security protocols than the latter, it poses a massive security risk.
Cybercriminals can deploy what is known as a stingray. It is essentially a complex device that simulates a 2G signal tower. When a device within range connects to it without the user’s knowledge, the inadequate security allows hackers to steal device information, text messages, browsing history or contact information.
It’s been found that more robust stingray devices can even force passing mobile phones to downgrade their connection from 4G or 5G to the vulnerable 2G. The hackers then steal sensitive information from the phone.
What you can do about it
If you’re worried that your details might be clipped from your device without your knowledge, something is thankfully being done about it. Google is aware that hackers can use 2G to breach security. And since nobody willingly uses the technology, it gives you an option to switch it off.
By implementing the kill switch, you can prevent your Android phone from automatically connecting to 2G signals. Blocking access through the flawed system, hackers will find it difficult to penetrate your mobile phone.
There is a catch, though. The setting is only available for newer Android phones that run Android 12. And not all models running Android 12 have the feature. So it’s complicated. But check the steps below in the Settings app on your device to see if it’s available to you.
To stop your Android device from connecting to 2G:
- Open the Settings app
- Scroll down and tap on Network & Internet
- Tap on SIMs and toggle the switch next to Allow 2G to the off position
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) praised Google for including the option and urged Apple to do the same. “This is a fantastic feature that will provide some protection from cell-site simulators. Now Apple needs to implement this feature as well, for the safety of their customers,” it said in a blog.