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Pre-owned smartphones may be vulnerable to security issues

Is your older mobile at risk of being hacked?
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The pre-owned smartphone market is a great way to get a cheap mobile, especially if you’re not fussed about having the latest devices. But could your bargain mobile be a digital security risk?

A new investigation by Which? has discovered that up to 3-out-of-10 older phones that are popular on secondhand tech stores may be at risk of being hacked as they are no longer receiving security updates from their manufacturer.

Today’s smartphones can be a big financial outlay - whether stumping up large prices for a handset without a SIM or spreading the cost over a pay monthly contract. Preowned and refurbished phones are an attractive option, and lucrative market, with second hand phone shops dotted around high streets all over the country.

But if you buy an older phone, there is a chance that it won’t receive important updates, and that could put you at risk from hackers, cyber criminals and data thieves.

Interested in buying a refurbished phone? Our handy guide has all the info

The Which? investigation looked at phones on sale at some of the most popular second-hand sellers. It discovered that 31% of the mobiles being sold on high-street chain CeX were no longer receiving security updates. Music Magpie, a popular online store, was found to have stock of which 20% was not supported and SmartFoneStore had 17%.

Phones like the iPhone 5, Google Pixel XL, Huawei P10 and Samsung Galaxy S7 are some of the devices found to be on sale that will not receive security updates.

Keep your mobile safe with this handy guide

Phones that no longer receive update support aren’t an immediate danger, but there is the risk that they could be hacked.

Kate Bevan, Computing Editor at Which?, said: “Keeping mobile phones in circulation for longer is better for the environment but it shouldn’t come at the cost of customer security. Unless manufacturers become more transparent, and those offering vital updates for only a couple of years do better, there is a risk that second-hand phones will be vulnerable to hackers or end up dumped in a landfill site.

“If your mobile phone is no longer receiving security updates you should consider upgrading as soon as possible. While you continue to use an out-of-support device, you must take steps to mitigate the risks – including using mobile antivirus software, managing app permissions and only downloading from official stores.”

The first thing to do to keep your phone safe is check if you are on the latest operating system, which you can do be going into the settings section of your phone. Here, if you are on an older OS you should find an option to download and install a newer version.

If it turns out that you have an older device and there are no updates available, you can still take some measures to stay protected. Try to only download apps from official app store. Be vigilant with your emails, avoid clicking links in emails that look like they may be scams.

Many phishing attempts are obvious but scammers are gettoing increasingly sophisitcated. Even if you get anb email from what looks like a genuine source, like a bank or your streaming subscription, always check the actual email address to make sure it's from the official site, and look out for tiny typos in the emails.

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