Android 12 officially launched in October of last year and several OEMs have pushed the new OS to their eligible smartphones and tablets since then. While features like Material You and improved widgets have garnered mainstream attention, more recent additions have somewhat flown under the radar. One such inclusion is a 2G kill switch that has recently come to light.
A tweet by Mishaal Rahman notes that a new change was spotted in Android 12 in the form of an option to disable 2G modems on phones (per the EFF). Google quietly rolled out the feature late last year, allowing users to improve the security of their devices with just the touch of a button, and the move has received widespread praise.
In places like the US, for example, carriers have long shut down 2G (with 3G set to follow), but most phones have the modems and still try to connect to nearby 2G signals – here's why that's a problem.
Launched way back in 1991, the dated service is riddled with vulnerabilities, and the security is obsolete. For starters, the encryption between 2G towers and devices is weak, resulting in a connection that can be cracked in real-time to intercept calls and text messages. Another problem is the lack of authentication from towers to phones, which allows for impersonation of an actual 2G tower — cell-site simulators, for example, can exploit this to intercept communications.
Why is this a problem, though, if most phones already make use of 4G? While 4G is by far more secure, your connection can be downgraded to 2G when 4G signal is weak, making your phone susceptible to attacks.
So, if you want to protect your privacy and data, you’re advised to activate the kill switch, especially if you're in a region where 2G use has since waned. That said, your Android device may have its own limitation that prevents you from flipping the switch.
While the feature arrived on Android 12, not all devices running the latest OS version can use it. The 2G kill switch requires an update to the Radio HAL version 1.6, which many devices coming from Android 11 are skipping out on because of Google Requirements Freeze (GRF). If your phone falls under that category, you'll not be able to disable your 2G modem.
However, devices launching with Android 12 — and even newer Pixel and Samsung phones — will be able to take advantage of the feature. To disable 2G, navigate to Settings:- Network and internet:- SIMs:- Allow 2G and toggle the option.