Last year, Google quietly rolled out a new feature for Android that allows users to disable 2G tethering on their smartphones. It is reported that such a move should increase user safety, as 2G networks are often used by cellular network simulators used for surveillance.
2G is the second generation of mobile communications, introduced in 1991. We are talking about old technology that emerged at a time when standardization bodies were not yet aware of the risks of counterfeit base stations and the need for strong encryption. Therefore, many vulnerabilities have been discovered in 2G over the years.
One of the biggest problems with 2G is that it uses very weak encryption between the cell tower and the mobile device, which an attacker can easily hack into to intercept calls and text messages. The hacker can do this without sending any packets. The second problem is that 2G does not implement base station authentication on the phone, which means that any attacker can easily impersonate their device as a real cell tower, and this will be almost impossible to detect.
While most of 2G’s shortcomings have been addressed in 4G, base station simulators can be downgraded to 2G to exploit vulnerabilities inherent in the old cellular standard. This makes every user vulnerable.
To protect themselves from the vulnerabilities of 2G, users of new Android smartphones should select the “Network and Internet” item in the “Settings” application, go to the “SIM cards” section and disable the “Allow 2G” switch. It’s worth noting that Google has only been able to implement this feature on relatively new smartphones due to the limitations of older hardware.
The new feature is a significant step by Google in terms of protecting Android smartphone users. Unfortunately, Apple has not yet implemented a similar feature for the iPhone.