HTC Ends Security Updates for Year-Old Smartphone
The HTC One S, which came out in March 2012.
HTC stands for "High Tech Computer," but today, it might as well stand for "Hot to Cold." The smartphone and tablet manufacturer has announced it will discontinue update support for the HTC One S, a smartphone released only 15 months ago.
That means that anyone who bought an HTC One S on a two-year plan, as they're typically sold, will have to wait until at least April 2014 to upgrade without penalties. By that time, the phone's out-of-date operating system will be highly vulnerable to malware and other security risks.
The HTC One S runs on a modified version of Google's Android operating system — specifically, the version known as Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Users had been waiting for an update to the most recent Android OS, 4.2, since Google made it available in February. Now, it looks as though the HTC One S will never see an update to 4.2.
HTC hasn't revealed the exact reason for ceasing updates to the One S. Nevertheless, this is a serious problem for HTC One S users. It's not that their phones will suddenly stop working; the issue is that without regular OS updates, the HTC One S will quickly fall behind on security and become increasingly vulnerable. [See also: Most Mobile Malware hits Android Devices]
Anti-virus protection is a largely reactionary process — experts are constantly on alert for new types of malware. When they find a threat that current protective systems don't cover, they release an update, or patch, to cover the "hole" in the security. The thwarted cybercriminals then get to work on figuring out a way to get around the new systems, and the process repeats itself.
That's why frequent updates are so critical. The longer a device — whether it's a smartphone, tablet or computer — goes without an update, the more at risk it becomes.
HTC is one of many phone companies that don't use a "pure" version of Google's Android OS, opting instead to modify the OS with custom additions and tweaks. This allows the makers to tailor the operating system to the device's design and capability, but it also makes updates more complicated, because each time Google releases a new version of Android, the makers have to customize that version to be compatible with their unique OS before they can pass it on to their users.
A recent report from security provider Juniper Networks concluded that Android 4.2 is capable of defending against 77 percent of Android malware. The same report also noted that because so many phone manufacturers use so-called "roll-your-own" versions of Android OS instead of the "pure" version, the added protection of Android 4.2 is still unavailable on many smartphones.
Google and Android phone manufacturers need to work harder to ensure that updates for their smartphones exist, and that those updates are delivered in a speedy fashion," security blogger Graham Cluley wrote on his website.
"If they don't, we're only going to end up with an increase number of out-of-date mobile devices, which could potentially be exploited by cybercriminals."
HTC said it has no plans to discontinue support for its other Android phones.