Android users may disable 2G to improve security and privacy

Google’s Android mobile operating system now has the ability to block 2G connections, lowering the danger of being spoofed by a rogue cell tower.

Cell site simulators, often known as stingrays, masquerade as actual cell towers, deceiving phones within their range into connecting to them. This enables attackers to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks that take use of flaws in the older 2G standard to intercept device information, call records, voice and text content, and browser history.

Because it is more susceptible than current communications technologies such as 4G and 5G, which have higher protection, 2G is the weapon of choice. 2G was standardised in the early 1990s, when mobility was far from common and the cybersecurity environment was significantly simpler.

2G encryption

Two of the most serious difficulties are that 2G is secured by very poor encryption that may be broken in real-time during transmission, and there is no way to authenticate a base station. This makes it significantly simpler to imitate a real cell site, and end users will not be able to tell the difference.

Despite the fact that 2G has been superseded by three mobile generations, most mobile operators still have 2G networks in place to support mass IoT deployments that require long battery life and low bandwidth, such as smart metres, to provide coverage to some elderly and rural users, and to provide a universal roaming service.

More sophisticated cell site simulators may cause devices to ‘downgrade’ from 4G or 5G to 2G, exposing them to danger. Given that these customers would very certainly never need to connect to a 2G network, the flexibility to disable the functionality is much appreciated.

Android phones with current hardware and the most recent operating system version may do so through the settings menu. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has applauded the new function, albeit it regrets that customers with older devices are not protected, and has asked Apple to implement a similar option in iOS.

“This is a fantastic feature that will provide some protection from cell site simulators, an invasive police surveillance technology employed throughout the country,” declared the campaign group. “We applaud Google for implementing this much needed feature.

“Though there is a lot more work to be done this will ensure that many people can finally receive a basic level of protection. We strongly encourage Google, Apple, and Samsung to invest more resources into radio security so they can better protect smartphone owners.”