Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Your Smartphone Secure? Federal Regulators Want to Know

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Your Smartphone Secure? Federal Regulators Want to Know

Article excerpt

Do smartphone makers and wireless carriers fix security bugs and other vulnerabilities fast enough?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) want the largest smartphone manufacturers, software developers, and wireless carriers in the United States to answer this question.

The federal regulators both issued statements Monday requiring the 12 companies to explain how they issue updates to address security vulnerabilities, as questions linger about how a security flaw in Google Android's Stagefright multimedia playback engine were resolved.

"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," reads the FCC statement, which references the Stagefright bug.

The letter praises software developers, manufacturers, and carriers' responses in developing patches, or fixes, to address these vulnerabilities.

"There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices - and that older devices may never be patched," reads the letter.

The FCC sent letters to the four largest wireless carriers in the US - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless - writing it wants to better understand "their processes for reviewing and releasing security updates for mobile devices." The FTC, meanwhile, ordered eight smart manufacturers and software developers, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to complete a report that explains their "policies, procedures, and practices" for developing security updates and delivering them to customers.

The regulators' concerns are far from unfounded. More Americans own smartphones than ever before. Sixty-four percent of Americans own a smartphone, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, with 85 percent of 18 to 29 year olds owning a phone, and 79 percent of 30 to 49 year olds owning one. …

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