Black Friday is not only a chance for shoppers to get unbelievable discounts. It’s also a chance for retailers to clear their shelves of old product. As you browse Black Friday sales fliers you’ll notice a lot of last year’s phone models at really low prices.
Many of those phones will be running Gingerbread — the Android OS that came out in September 2011 and is now two versions old. And according to Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab, you shouldn’t buy those phones.
If you follow tech news — or any news — you’ve probably heard at least something about Android’s hackability. And while we wouldn’t call owning an Android “dangerous”, the Google OS and the apps that run on it are more prone to hacks than the well-vetted and tightly-controlled apps that come through the Google Play store.
However, since becoming the most popular OS in the United States, Google has gotten a lot better about security. Newer Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Nexus 4 run the much-safer Android Jelly Bean. This OS features all of the perks that make Android fun and the security features that make it safe.
Unfortunately, Google’s changes didn’t happen retroactively. And the two-OS old Gingerbread (version 2.3.6) is still subject to the same loose oversights that plagued Android of yore.
According to Kaspersky’s figures, 28% of the Androids attached by hackers were running Gingerbread. Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.4) was the second most susceptible and attracted 23% of the attacks.
What kind of hacks are you vulnerable to when running Gingerbread? Kaspersky reports that the most common attacks are SMS Trojans. These are malware hacks that send you text messages that charge your phone premium texting rates if you don’t call your phone company to have them blocked.
It’s not a data-threatening attack but it is annoying. And if left unchecked, it could add hundreds to your phone bill over a number of years.
Should you avoid Android altogether? There’s probably no reason to go that far. In fact, Android became the most popular phone OS while it had security risks that are much greater than they are today.
That’s because Android owners, as a demographic, are pretty computer savvy. And the risks you run with Android are similar to the risks you run when using your PC. Running outdated software on any device is asking for trouble.
Staying safe in many cases is as easy as avoiding suspicious links. And if you can avoid cashing checks from a lottery you never entered you can avoid moist Android hacks.
But if you’re buying a phone for a relative or friend who may not know their way around the internet so well, avoid any phones that run Gingerbread. Or, install one of the many free security apps and secure it before handing it over.
If you’re still unsure about Android and want to avoid it altogether, you do have several options. One is to go with Apple. They closely monitor their apps and implement the browsing safeguards that Google Android is just now installing in their phones.
If you want security without paying a premium, why not try a Windows Phone? GSM Nation was one of the first online retailers to offer the Nokia Lumia 920 — the newest Windows 8 Phone — unlocked. Its screen and speeds are as good or better than most phones on the high-end market. Plus it’s cheaper than Apple and safer than Android.