Consumer watchdog Which? has found that more than 1 billion Android devices are potentially vulnerable to attack because they are running older versions of the operating system.

Researchers looked at Google data that shows 40% of Android users are no longer receiving security updates, which it said puts their devices at risk of data theft, malware, and other attacks.

“Anyone using an Android phone released around 2012 or earlier – including popular models like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Sony Xperia S, should be especially concerned, since it’s likely they will be running a version of Android that does not include various security enhancements Google has been rolling out since,” the company said.

Devices which recently lost support for Android security updates will not immediately encounter problems, Which? said, but the risk of these users being hacked will increase exponentially going forward.

“It’s very concerning that expensive Android devices have such a short shelf life before they lose security support – leaving millions of users at risk of serious consequences if they fall victim to hackers,” said Which? Computing editor Kate Bevan.

“Google and phone manufacturers need to be upfront about security updates – with clear information about how long they will last and what customers should do when they run out.”

Which? advised users whose smartphones were out of date to be careful what they download and what links they click on, adding that backing up your data and installing a mobile antivirus may help to mitigate this threat.

Slow Android adoption

Unlike Apple’s latest iOS 13 operating system, which is installed on 77% of all devices sold in the last four years, Android 10 is only installed on 9.98% of Android devices.

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Android 9 is installed on 36.15% of devices, which include devices from manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, Sony, and Nokia released last year.

According to data from NetMarketShare, Android 6.0 and Android 5.1 are run by 7.09% and 4.30% of Android smartphone users respectively.

Many Android users run versions of the operating system even older than this, including 3.20% who are still running Android 4.2.

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