What will happen to Huawei phones after Google’s block on apps?

 

Google’s decision to cut-off Huawei could be a death sentence for the Chinese tech giant and expose its customers to a host of cyber-security issues, an expert has said.



Eoin Keary, CEO of cyber-security firm Edgescan, told MailOnline that this hammer-blow could spell ‘the beginning of the end’ for Huawei. 

The inability for users to update their apps is a serious issue as they will rapidly become outdated and vulnerable, he revealed. 

Google has remaining tight-lipped about what this will mean for Huawei users, but existing phones will likely forever be stuck with their current version of some apps. 

This includes serious security flaws which are fixed via Google’s update on the Play Store and will not be available to Huawei devices, leaving them exposed.  

Huawei devices will largely continue to function as before in the short-term, but they will soon get left behind. 

Google said existing devices will have access to the Play Store but there is no timeline on how long this will last. 

A Google spokesperson said: ‘We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications. 

‘For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.’ 

This means that, at least for now, apps and downloads, as well as protection via Google’s Play Protect, will remain in place. 

But it has already stopped updates via the app, which will rapidly manifest itself into a growing problem. 

Existing customers of Huawei’s technology still have access to the Play Store but not its updates. 

This means users on other Android platforms, such as LG and Samsung, will have access to the update – but Huawei customers will not. 

All major and minor updates from the Play Store will therefore bypass Huawei, including any security patches.  

‘Updates to the next version of apps will also be restricted. If you have a Huawei phone, you wont get security updates,’ Mr Keary said. 

‘Huawei could be a very, very insecure device as updates are not available and millions and millions of users will be increasingly less secure.’ 

For example, it was revealed last week that an Israeli firm was using a WhatsApp vulnerability to spy on people via the app and their phones.

A fix was found and issued to Android users via the Play Store – absolving customers of any risk.

However, if this had happened after today’s bombshell, it would have been impossible for people to fix the problem.

‘Update frequency of Android, not just of major releases but of minor updates as well, is rapid and almost all of them fix a vulnerability.

‘The risk of infection gets dramatically higher now for Huawei devices and they may stop working soon.

‘For me, this is the beginning of the end for Huawei. Security is often taken for granted and if security is removed and phones become insecure, will people put all their personal belongings on their phones?’ 

The picture is murkier for any customers buying Huawei devices in the future but new Huawei phones will not have access to Gmail, Google Maps and other apps.

Google has yet to issue a statement on what the implications will be for new users but it is possible their access to Play Store will be revoked.

The security concerns worsen as time progresses and the versions of the apps on the platform become more and more outdated. 

This potentially exposes anything that is on a device to hackers and potential criminals – and there is little a user can do to prevent it. 

‘Phones are incredible personal devices, even more so than our desktops, and people will now be less willing to trust Huawei with this information,’ Mr Keary said. 

‘Six months is a lifetime in cyber security, and if the the operating system isn’t being maintained then there is a very serious risk to all the personal data.

‘I don’t see a reason to buy a Huawei device if it cant use an official version of android.’ 

The Android system is used by a host of manufacturers, including LG, Samsung and Sony, among others. 

All rely on Google’s Play Store and their own license to keep up to date wit hthe latest developments. 

Google has said that, at least for now, customers will still have access to Google Play Store, and all the usual Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Assistant.  

Existing phones will still have the apps, but users will not be able to upgrade to newer versions.  

‘In effect, they [Google] wont deploy their apps to Huawei good and proper and access to google play and other Google apps will be restricted,’ Mr Keary said. 

Google’s engineers are also banned from collaborating with Huawei engineers on any updates.  

‘Huawei has said it plans to build its own features from the open-source material, but that’s a huge mountain to climb,’ Mr Keary added. 

‘This builds on the 5G issues it has faced and powers in the western world want to take Huawei out of the picture and this is a good way of doing that.’     

Google said it was taking ‘steps to comply with recent government actions’ after President Donald Trump added Huawei to a US blacklist. 

Google’s lack of willing to discuss the topic indicated the firm is still wrangling with how best to move forward. 

A Google spokesperson said: ‘We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications. 

‘For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.’ 

Google Play Protect is a system which is built-in to Android devices and scans automatically for malware and signs of infection.   

Its indication that this will continue to operate on Huawei devices offers customers with at least some good news, but there is no indication of how long this will continue.   


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