If you have an Android (News - Alert)-based smartphone, beware: a potentially devastating security flaw has been uncovered that could wipe out your entire phone with just one click.
The flaw has been seen to affect a sizable number of Android phones, including Samsung’s (News - Alert) Galaxy S III. Although Samsung has updated its Galaxy S III software to correct for the flaw since it was discovered, many people could still be running the older version of the software, completely unaware of the problem.
The problem allows web pages to trick your phone into accepting a special service number, called an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code, to be dialed into it, which includes a code that can wipe the phone clear of all data.
The reason such a problem can even occur is that USSD codes aren’t necessarily dangerous--under normal circumstances they are used by cellular companies to perform diagnostics or other similar functions.
Samsung’s Galaxy S III isn’t the only affected version--the same problem has been reported by other Samsung, HTC and Motorola (News - Alert) models.
To eliminate the problem entirely, software updates should be applied to the phone in question.
To do this, load the Settings app on the phone, then click “About Device.” A “Software Update” button should appear at the top of the screen. Click on that, then click “Update” on the next screen. This will check to see which version of the software your phone is using--older software will then be updated or replaced.
If your phone is running an older version of the software and you do not update it, you can still protect yourself from the potential data wipe. First, you should avoid clicking on unfamiliar links, and try to keep a heightened sense of whether or not a link is legitimate. If you are unsure, do not risk it.
Secondly, there are apps you can download such as Dialer One (click here to download for Android), known as “alternative dialer apps,” which won’t automatically execute the USSD code.
Lastly, making a daily backup of your phone to your computer is essential to ensure your data is safe in the event of it getting wiped.
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Edited by Rich Steeves