What are Android Security Patches? Should We Care About Them?

android security patch
You must receive security patches from Google or the OEM of your phone through OTA updates on your device. Do you know what the Android Security patches are, what do they mean and why are they important? In this article, we will examine in detail the Android security patches and explain what they have to offer.

Android has been focusing on security since the first day. It is built on the Linux kernel and uses many of its powerful security mechanisms. The entire operating system is developed according to strict rules. These provide complete isolation between the operating system kernel, system processes and libraries, and Java applications. Each new version of Android uses a kernel in sync with the official Linux kernel (upstream) and defects detected in the structure of previous versions are corrected by Google engineers.

Early in the Android development process, it became apparent that security improvements were generally slow. During the annual release cycle of the operating system, a large number of security issues have been detected. However, no solution would come before the next Android version. Most of the time, patches were only available on the next version of Android and the devices needed to be upgraded to be safe. Although patches were also applied to previous OS versions, most manufacturers did not create OTA (Over The Air) updates for non-legacy devices to provide these fixes: Such a task was simply very high.

Google has tried to find a solution to this problem: since 2020, Google publishes monthly security bulletins. These include information about recently detected security flaws and links to patches that fix them (known in the community as security patches). Although Google typically splits these patches into multiple groups in their newsletters, they can usually be categorized into kernel patches – targeting kernel versions currently supported by Android – and system patches – that fix issues affecting the rest of the world. Android stack. Patches for security issues are available approximately one month after exposure vulnerability, in the next bulletin.

What does Android Security Patch mean?

Google's security patches address remote code execution, elevation of privilege, information disclosure, and denial of service vulnerabilities. These types of vulnerabilities allow a potential attacker to gain special access to a device without the user's participation. For example, a malware application should first be installed and then opened by the victim to steal information or charge the user account. Do not forget to read my comprehensive article about malware on Android. On the other hand, an attack via remote code execution can occur without even the user's noticing it. Users can not do anything to protect their devices from the types of security vulnerabilities described above, with the exception of running an Android version with the latest security patches.

In general, using an Android with the latest security patches protects against attacks that may steal personal information (including passwords, bank account data and phone numbers), damage the software of A device and spy on the victim (via location, voice recording, etc.).

State of Support for Security Patches

We could find the above security vulnerability management very interesting. However, although the code available on Google's code repositories is constantly updated with the latest security patches, it is up to the manufacturer to implement them on their current (via OTA updates) and future devices. This is considered difficult because most manufacturers do not have the human resources to carry out this task. In addition, the Android versions that come with most devices are strongly customized by the manufacturer to add special features. Applying Google patches over these special versions of Android may require additional code changes.

In addition to the above, some security vulnerabilities affect proprietary code typically published by System-On-Chip (SoC) distributors (eg, Qualcomm, MediaTek). They alone would be able to solve these problems. Most of the time, these problems are not solved on older hardware.

It becomes apparent that, while Google strives to provide simple solutions to most security vulnerabilities of its operating system, the large number of devices running Android and its large differences in features hardware make it difficult to apply security patches to all. .

Find the version of the security patch that you are running on

You can find out which version of the security patches are fixed with your Android (6.x +) by going to Settings then About the phone. There you should find a named text view Android security patch level. Google provides two types of security patches each month. One, the first day of the month (for example, September 1) and the other, the fifth (eg, September 5). The fix level on the first day of the month covers the security issues covered in this month's bulletin, while the fifth day fix level covers all security issues discussed so far.

If you think your phone is late or slow, you should read our tips for speeding up late Android devices. Plus, these Android RAM management tips would also help you adjust your phone to get the best performance possible.

How to obtain the latest security patches

Unless you are a developer, you have to rely on other developers or manufacturers to get security patches. Most manufacturers usually have a common code repository for each version of Android, for all their supported devices. This means that budget and high-end devices could share the code. In the end, however, only high-end devices will get security patches for the reasons discussed above. So, if you still want to use the latest level of security patch, you can purchase a high-end device from a reputable manufacturer to regularly provide OTA updates or purchase any device with a ROM. custom available for active development. Most of the big names in the custom ROM space, such as LineageOS and OmniRom, tend to apply security patches a few days after they are released by Google.

Also, do not forget that kernel patches are applied differently to devices on custom ROMs. In general, each device (or devices running on the same SoC) has its own kernel code. The device maintainer is responsible for applying kernel patches. Although you can rest assured that you will get the latest patches at the next update, your kernel might still be at risk if it is not being developed. active. Most custom ROMs have strict rules for this scenario. A device that has long kept an unmaintained kernel is removed from the "official devices" list.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, there are two ways to always run the latest security fixes on your device:

  • Get yourself a high-end device from a manufacturer who has earned a reputation through live updates
  • Obtain a device with custom ROM support, which also benefits from a large community of users and developers.

The second solution seems the best since most custom ROM distributions provide monthly updates. This is more often than most ROM manufacturers in stock.

That's all you need to know about Android's security patches. If your current device fails to get the latest security patches, keep in mind its support when you purchase your next device.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the Android WebView system

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