When does an old iPhone become a security risk?

Photo: Jorge Dolgikh (Shutterstock)

I’m a big proponent of keeping your technology as long as possible. I still have my original MacBook Pro Touch Bar, and I plan to run it on the ground. But a legitimate reason to update your technology is when a company stops supporting it with security updates. That begs the question: like melong csomeyou yousee an iPhone bbefore iit is likesecurity rQuestions?

Security updates keep you and your devices safe

I’m not talking about feature updates, mind you. Sure, it’s a bummer when your iPhone stops getting all the latest features Apple has to offer. But it’s still perfectly usable as-is. However, once a company stops issuing security updates, your device becomes susceptible to new vulnerabilities appearing.

Let’s say you have a smartphone that the OEM has completely stopped supporting. At some point, a major security vulnerability is discovered that could allow bad guys to run any code they want on your phone, essentially taking over it. Maybe they do this via a malicious link in a text message or email, or they run a 2FA code scam over the phone. Either way, this vulnerability exists and is putting users at risk.

Once the OEM discovers a patch for the vulnerability, it will issue a security update to all devices that are still supported. But, since your device is not on that list, it will remain unprotected. That’s the point where even someone like me will admit it’s time to upgrade to a new device. Cybersecurity is not a joke.

Now, Android devices often have fixed dates for when OEMs stop supporting them. Companies like Google and Samsung give their newest devices a guaranteed five years of security updates. If you buy a Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, for example, will be protected until at least October 2027. But if Google decides to cut ties there, your Pixel won’t be protected against new security vulnerabilities starting in November 2027.

Apple has long backed its devices with security updates

The iPhone, however, is a unique device when it comes to security support. While Apple never gives their products an end-of-life timeline, they do stand behind them by a long hour. Apple supported the iPhone 6S, for example, with full software updates via iOS 15. And while the company dropped the phones for iOS 16, that meant it supported the 6S with feature updates for a full seven years.

But that is feature Updates Apple continues to issue security updates for the 6S, as well as any other device stuck on iOS 15. In fact, the company issues software updates for any iPhone stuck on iOS. 12. We saw it with the latest batch of software and security updates this week. While compatible iPhones saw iOS 16.3 press its Software Updates tab, Apple also released iOS 15.7.3 Y iOS 12.5.7 to give older devices running those versions critical security patches. iOS 15.7.3 fixes five vulnerabilities, while iOS 12.5.7 fixes one.

However, iPhones still running iOS 12 are ancient. They include the 2014 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as the 2013 iPhone 5S. If you bought an iPhone 5S at launch, Apple continues to support your device with essential security patches nearly 10 years later.

It’s not just the iPhone that benefits here, either. Apple issues the same security patches for iPadOS, which means the original iPad Air can be updated to iOS 12.5.7, just like the sixth-generation iPod touch. The company also continues to release security updates for macOS Big Sur, which means some 2013 Macs are protected as well.

A secure iPhone is not necessarily a fast iPhone

Now, it’s not necessarily ideal to use a device that old in 2023. Once Apple releases software support for one device, as it happened with 5S, 6 and 6 Plus after iOS 12, app developers are also slowly starting to drop support. Also, while you can replace an old battery, old hardware (especially lack of memory) causes apps to run. is it so Still endured harder.

but it’s still sure to use these devices. Once we see Apple stop issuing security updates, as appears to be the case with iOS 11 and earlier, then the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus should be gracefully retired. But as of now, you can theoretically safely use your iPhone for at least a decade.

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