The latest Android versions now allow you to disable 2G for added security, but your phone may not support it.
what you need to know
- Google quietly rolled out a setting in Android 12 that allows you to disable 2G on newer smartphones.
- This feature improves security because 2G lacks strong encryption that attackers can use to intercept communications.
- However, many Android phones may not support a kill switch.
While the best 5G networks in the US, including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, continue to expand their nationwide coverage, most smartphones still allow interoperability with 4G/3G/2G networks. In some cases, your device will attempt to connect to an available 2G network, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes poses a security risk.
Fortunately, Google has added the ability to disable 2G modems on Android phones, although this may not have been noticed by everyone. According to the EFF, the 2G kill switch is a useful feature that protects devices from “intrusive police surveillance technology” called cell site simulators.
For the uninitiated, these simulators are used to simulate an actual 2G tower to intercept communications due to the lack of authentication between the tower and the device. There is also a lack of strong encryption between the 2G tower and the device, which could allow attackers to crack the connection in real time to intercept calls and text messages.
This doesn’t seem to be a problem, as most modern smartphones are now connected to a 4G signal. On the other hand, it is possible to downgrade your connection from 4G to 2G when Cell Site Simulator is not available in a specific area. 2G needs to be turned off at the modem level to keep your data safe.
But there is a problem. The EFF says the feature is only available on newer devices “due to limitations of older hardware.” Mishaal Rahman also noted that you need to update your device to Radio HAL version 1.6 to access the kill switch. However, according to XDA Developers, most devices upgraded from Android 11 do not support the latest Radio HAL due to a freeze requested by Google.
as @EFF Point out that Android 12 adds a switch to disable the 2G modem. 2G is insecure and prone to interception, so it is recommended that you avoid it. https://t.co/26YFMVtTHt
Unfortunately, this feature requires Radio HAL version 1.6, which many devices do not have. pic.twitter.com/oxyOFkyiVA
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) January 13, 2022
That said, this shouldn’t bother owners of devices running Android 12 out of the box. For example, if you have a Google Pixel 6, you can turn off 2G by navigating to Settings > Network & Internet > SIM > Allow 2G. From there, you can deactivate the option.