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You’re not alone: US government also frustrated with slow phone updates

by Todd Haselton | May 10, 2016May 10, 2016 6:30 am PST

Galaxy S5 Galaxy s4 front

Government regulators with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have opened inquiries with wireless carriers and phone makers in an effort to figure out what needs to happen to speed up phone updates. The regulators are worried that mobile patches take too long, potentially leaving security flaws open for longer than they need to be.

“The FTC has ordered eight mobile device manufacturers to provide the agency with information about how they issue security updates to address vulnerabilities in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices,” the FCC said this week.

“There have recently been a growing number of vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems that threaten the security and integrity of a user’s device, including ‘Stagefright’ in the Android operating system, which may affect almost 1 billion Android devices globally. Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered.”

The FCC said it is working with the FTC on the issue. According to Bloomberg, the government regulators reached out to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, TracFone and U.S. Cellular. Inquiries into software updates were also passed along to Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung, Apple, Google, BlackBerry, HTC and LG.

To the industry’s credit, Android makers now work to release smaller monthly security updates to patch flaws that Google has found in Android. The problem with those devices, however, is that older phones are still largely left out in the cold, which is the issue the FCC and FTC have with the current process. Apple has the leg up in this situation, since it also releases frequent updates but isn’t at a carrier’s mercy to approve larger software updates.

Bloomberg FCC

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...