Recently, Google pushed an OTA to the Pixel 6. In addition to patching and fixing bugs, it also quietly inserted the "disable 2G" function.
▲ Disable 2G switch on Pixel. Image via: arstechnica
It did not appear in the official upgrade catalog, but was written into the Android 12 release notes, aimed at developers rather than the general public.
▲ The description of the disabling 2G function in the Android 12 release notes. Image from: Google
It may be because the Pixel user group is not large, and just adding a 2G network switch did not cause much disturbance. Even when I asked my colleague who is the main backup machine of Pixel 6 Pro, he was a little surprised.
But the emergence of the switch has the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) celebrating , not only writing a letter of recognition to Google on its website.
▲ Picture from: EFF official website
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been calling for the retirement of the outdated 2G cellular standard in 2020, and Google's Android is the first mobile operating system in more than a year to allow users to disable 2G networks entirely. For this, EFF even wanted to make a pennant to Google.
At the same time, EFF also launched a solidarity campaign on Twitter, the object is naturally another major mobile operating system iOS, hoping that Apple will add a 2G network switch to iOS like Google.
Please turn off the 2G network
When formulating 2G communication technology standards, relevant agencies did not consider some risk scenarios. With the passage of time and the upgrade of new communication technologies, two major problems have arisen in 2G cellular network standards.
One is the use of weak encryption between the device and the cell tower, which attackers can crack in real-time and use to intercept calls and text messages. The second is that there is no authentication between the cell tower and the mobile phone. When the pseudo base station appears, the mobile phone cannot be distinguished, and the data information is intercepted.
These security loopholes have been fixed in the 4G network, but in some special scenarios, the smartphone will automatically switch to the 2G network, and the loopholes will appear under the sun. Now many fake base stations will also take advantage of this feature, forcing the connection of surrounding smartphones to drop to 2G for network intrusion.
▲ Google Pixel 6 Pro.
While commending Google for taking action, EFF also recommends that users actively turn off the 2G switch that is turned on by default to block potential dangers.
At present, in addition to Pixel, some new Samsung mobile phones have also added corresponding switches in the system, but the new Android phone in my hand has no relevant options.
Google also pointed out in the Android 12 release notes that this switch requires the Android 12 system and the Radio 1.6 HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer), which will not be updated with the upgrade of the Android system.
For this, ArsTechnica directly recommends buying a new Android phone with the Android 12 system pre-installed, rather than an old product that can be upgraded to the Android 12 system. However, for the matter of adding a switch to 2G, I don't think it is difficult for domestic custom Android systems. For Apple, which can control software and hardware globally, it is not difficult to add a 2G switch.
2G has started to withdraw from the network, will it be unnecessary to add the switch now?
Regarding the 2G network, in fact, it was on the hot search in 2019. The three major operators are closing down the 2G network one after another, which has caused some devices to be unable to make calls.
To this end, China Unicom also responded, in simple terms, it is to gradually shut down the 2G network to release the corresponding network resources for the 4G network upgrade and 5G network layout.
▲ Picture from: AppleInsider
Not only China Unicom, but also China Telecom and China Mobile are also gradually releasing the frequency bands of 2G and 3G networks, gradually suspending related network services, and turning to 4G and 5G in an all-round way.
Looking at the world, it is also the general trend to clear 2G and 3G. AT&T in the United States stopped providing services to 2G networks as early as January 1, 2017. In addition, many operators in Canada, South Korea, Japan, etc. are shutting down 2G networks as planned and removing 2G users.
▲ AT&T shut down the 2G network in 2017, so the original iPhone also became a large iPod Touch. Image from: idropnews
However, some countries and regions in Europe will continue to operate 2G networks until 2025. In Africa, where network technology is relatively backward, operators have no plans to stop 2G networks for the time being. However, according to reports, many regions have no 2G and 3G services.
Therefore, in developed countries and regions, even if there is no 2G switch in the system, there may not be a corresponding 2G network service in fact, and the related risks naturally do not exist.
It seems that the EFF should call on operators to speed up the shutdown of 2G services. In fact, in addition to being used for feature phones to make calls, 2G networks are also widely used in the Internet of Things.
In addition to clearing a large number of 2G users, it is also imperative to upgrade the corresponding IoT industrial equipment. And that's one reason why some European operators shut down 3G first and keep 2G online until 2025.
Therefore, shutting down 2G network services is more like a process than a simple switch. Correspondingly, it is faster to add a 2G network switch to the smart device and turn it off at will than to appeal to the operator. And in the process, the switch of 2G network is not superfluous.
Not only operators, mobile phones are also saying goodbye to 2G and 3G
In fact, as operators gradually stop 2G and 3G networks, smartphones have also begun to say goodbye to 2G and 3G networks.
The Bank of China's iPhone 13 series no longer supports China Telecom's 2G and 3G network standards. Similarly, feature phones that used to focus on 2G networks are also gradually upgrading to 4G.
Some of Nokia's new feature phones have gradually added support for 4G VoLTE, in order to facilitate the replacement of some old feature phone users after the 2G network completely stops service.
Both the device side and the operator are gradually phasing out outdated and insecure network standards. The current 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G "four generations living together" may be completely broken this year and next, and future equipment will gradually reduce support for 2G network frequency bands.
Although the addition of the function of disabling 2G called for by the Electronic Frontier Foundation can protect the public from 2G cellular network vulnerabilities at a basic level, according to the speed of farewell to 2G networks by operators and devices, perhaps before this switch becomes public awareness , 2G network has become history.
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