FCC, FTC Probing Effectiveness of Smartphone Security Updates

By Jennifer Cowan

Google Play image — The Nexus 5.

Federal regulators want answers on the frequency and effectiveness of Smartphone security updates in the United States.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission have teamed up to investigate the processes used by major mobile carriers and device manufacturers.

Google Play image — The Nexus 5.

The probe comes at a time when mobile threats are on the increase.

“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 one billion Android devices globally,” reads an FCC press release.

“Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered. To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices—and that older devices may never be patched.”

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau chief Jon Wilkins has sent a letter to mobile carriers to inquire about their processes for reviewing and releasing security updates for Smartphones. A FCC spokesperson told Bloomberg letters were sent AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular Corp. and TracFone Wireless.

The FTC, meanwhile, has ordered eight mobile device manufacturers — Apple, Google, BlackBerry, HTC America, LG Electronics USA, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung Electronics America — to supply the agency with information about how they release security updates to patch the flaws in Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The companies were also asked to supply a list of all of the devices they have offered for sale in the U.S. since August 2013, as well as the security flaws associated with each device and when/if patches were pushed out to users.

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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