How the AC staff thinks about security when they’re buying cool stuff.
There are plenty of reasons to want a new phone or cool tech gadget, and everyone has different reasons. And of course, there are plenty of phones and cool tech gadgets to buy. We find the right gadget for the right reasons and lighten our wallets.
In the midst of all the talk about specs and software and updates and cameras and everything else about the next great Android phone, you’ll see a few people talking about security. Security can mean different things to different people but I think everyone considers it while they’re deciding what to buy. Even if they don’t realize they’re doing it. The iris scanning tech on the Galaxy S8 is a security feature. See? You were thinking about it after all.
How important should security be when you’re deciding which phone to buy? That’s the question this week, and we went around the table to see what your Android Central staff thinks.
Security absolutely weighs into my buying decision when it comes to any sort of connected electronic device I buy — particularly with a phone — but it isn’t at the top of my list of importance. I entirely understand that we live in a world where most (if not all) of the electronics we use and love have security vulnerabilities, and in knowing that I’m willing to use devices even though I can’t independently confirm that they are completely secure from all types of exploits.
Yes, that means I buy or continue to use devices that have potential vulnerabilities, but in my case, I’m choosing to use them knowing that my interaction with the device may not be safe from all angles. I have no misconceptions about the potential insecurity of my data on such devices and make changes to my use of them accordingly. But at the same time, I recognize the extreme usefulness of these consumer electronics and continue to use them because I see a net benefit despite their potential insecurity.
When I buy a phone, or a connected camera, or a car, security is, like, the third thing I think about. But that’s because it’s something I build into my decision — I take for granted that I am thorough enough in my research to get a product from a company that takes security seriously.
Regular updates and quick patches mean a lot.
But unlike Jerry, that doesn’t mean security trumps other considerations, since I am not quite as security-conscious as he is. I rely on a few basic rules: the device or product must be updated regularly; in the case of something like a smart light bulb or security camera, it needs to be from a company that has a history of patching security holes. Nest, for instance, took over six months to patch a recent exploit in its security camera, and while it was ultimately patched, that slow turnaround time means I may think twice before purchasing another product from them.
In the case of a smartphone, I buy phones that will receive regular updates and security patches. Obviously, I’ll test many phones, but I will usually go back to phones from Google, BlackBerry or Samsung, since they have the best track record of monthly, or at least regular, patches. Similarly, I now take such security into consideration when choosing a carrier; my current carrier, Rogers, is fairly bad about pushing security patches to its Android phones, so I am considering switching to Telus, which is better known for such things.
It’s easy for me to say that security doesn’t necessarily factor into my buying decisions because, frankly, it’s not the first thing I think of when I’m buying a gadget. And I think that’s because I trust myself enough, and the experience I have buying technology for nearly two decades, to stick with brands and operating systems that I know I can trust.
Of course, sometimes that backfires on us. Sometimes there’s an exploit, and I’m getting an email from Adobe, for instance, saying that it had to reset my password because of a security breach. Or, I hear of a text messaging scam going around that installs some sort of virus on your Android device. I try to stick to “the rules” — updating software and avoiding spam, for instance — to keep those type of predators at bay. It’s worked so far.
I don’t run ad blockers or virus scanners on my Android device, but I do try to do my research, even if it’s merely for a new app I’m downloading from the Play Store. I may not realize that I’m doing that for security purposes, but I think that’s because I’ve reached the point where I’m instinctively looking out for it anyway.
It’s the first and most important consideration when I buy any connected thing.
Would you buy a front door that has no lock?
Security and Privacy are two very different things, but privacy depends on security. I wouldn’t want someone to come into my home when I’m not there, so I lock the door. Locking the door wouldn’t be very helpful if anyone who wanted to get in could download the key to it.
I’m not carrying around any national secrets on my phone. In fact, nothing I have on my phone would be important to anyone else. I would probably unlock it and hand it to you if you wanted or needed to look at something. I just want all the looking to be on my terms and not someone else’s. The company who can offer that is where I start looking when I’m buying.
Ask yourself if you would want a random stranger reading your email and looking through all your photos. If you said no, then security matters for you, too.
What about you? Do you think about security when you buy connected things? If so, how important is it to you?
Let everyone know your thoughts in the comments down below.