Its users Google are now able to disable 2G connections on their Android devices, which are accompanied by a number of privacy and security issues exploited by malicious agents.
The addition of the option was spotted by the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), which characterizes as a victory for privacy.
A mobile location simulator, known as a "stingray" or IMSI Catcher, is a device that disguises itself as a cell phone tower, forcing cell phones within range to connect to it.
This connection enables the operators of these Stingrays to carry out attacks Man-in-the-middle and steal sensitive personal information such as:
- IMSI device (international mobile subscriber ID)
- Call metadata such as call number and duration
- SMS and voice call content
- History of data usage and web browsing
Unfortunately, this method of data interception has been used repeatedly and indiscriminately by law enforcement authorities during peaceful demonstrations in otherwise democratic countries where strict data protection laws apply.
In addition, documented cases of private development "stingrays" are also abundant in recent years, so the abuse of communication network vulnerabilities is widespread.
Most of these vulnerabilities have been addressed with 4G, but simulated base stations have a way of downgrading nearby device connections to 2G, effectively paving the way for exploiting old flaws.
Having a way to prevent this on the part of the user is an important development and while disconnecting 2G connections does not address the full range of security issues, it is definitely a good start.
While Google has given Android users the option to block 2G mobile connections on their device, the setting is enabled by default.
If you want to turn it off, you can go to «Settings → Network and Internet → SIM → Allow 2G». Depending on the manufacturer of your device, the access path to this setting may be different.
This setting is only available from Android 12 at this time. It is also important to note that 2G remains active as a backup for emergency calls regardless of where switching is set, so there is no way to turn it off completely.
Finally, Apple has not given iPhone users the option to lock their devices only on 4G / 5G connectivity, but now that Google has taken that step, competition is likely to follow.