Yes, You Can Make Your Tech Survive Obsolescence

First we buy a gadget. For the next few years, the manufacturer releases occasional software updates that fix bugs and protect us from vulnerabilities. One day, those updates stop coming. According to traditional wisdom, it’s time to buy a new device.

But what if it is not?

The truth is, upgrades don’t have to be so automated. We can often delay them if we follow some of the best security practices and take control of our personal tech. After all, upgrading to a tech company schedule is unrealistic for everyone – some devices, including expensive Android phones, stop receiving software updates after only two years. We all do not have the time or money to buy new products regularly.

At the same time, we do not want our gadgets to hold on for long enough to become susceptible to bugs, cyberattacks and other bugs. Software upgrades are usually required for that reason. “Everyone needs to be able to use technology safely to live and work,” said Hillary Shohony, executive director of Free Geek, a nonprofit that reuses old machines for schools and seniors.

“What a reality for many people and everyone has to join the digital world,” she said. “It’s not fair to say you need the best computer to get the best security.”

So how do we run that line? A new gadget is a must buy, there are ways to keep your devices safe even when the manufacturer stops providing software updates. Here’s what you need to know.

Think about how we use technology nowadays. On computers, everything from homework to editing spreadsheets is done through a web browser. On the phone, we rely heavily on both the web and the app.

So staying safe online without the developer’s direct help often involves taking steps to browse the web and use apps. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your browser up to date. Staying on top of browser updates will provide some protection against malicious websites. Trusted browser companies like Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, update their apps to work on computers older than 10 years.

  • As always, avoid questionable behavior. Do not open messages or click on links from unknown senders, and, if possible, only use apps offered by trusted brands, said Sinan Aren, a security firm, executive at Barracuda Networks.

  • Keep an eye out for suspicious applications. Android devices are more susceptible to malware than Apple phones because they can be set up to install apps from unauthorized App Stores. In addition, many manufacturers stop supporting Android devices after only two years. Google declined to comment. Older Android device owners can add a layer of security by installing a malware-scanning app from brands like Malwarebytes, NortonLifeLock and Lookout.

  • Protect your online accounts. Even if your device’s software is outdated, set up your online accounts with dual-factor authentication – a security practice that generates unique code by application or text message whenever you log in to a site – to prevent improper access to your account. Can help. In case your password is stolen.

Doing all of the above will reduce the risk, but will not eliminate it. Dan Guido, chief executive of Trail of Beats, said older devices were open to exploitation for attackers because of known vulnerabilities within the old software.

“Unsupported devices are a stable target for attackers – a sitting duck -” he said.

There are more advanced measures that can keep the device functional and its supported life safe. One involves replacing the manufacturer’s software system with an alternative.

Ms. Shohony’s Nonprofit, Free Geek, Portland, Ore. Located, revives the old personal computer by installing a copy of Linux, an open-source operating system known for strong security and used for basic functions such as browsing the web, exchanging emails and composing documents.

Installing a separate operating system requires some technical knowledge, but numerous resources and tutorials online provide step-by-step instructions for adding Linux to older Windows and Mac machines.

Smartphone owners have fewer options. For Android, LineageOS, an open-source mobile operating system, has received positive reviews for its robust security.

Older Apple mobile devices, however, cannot be easily modified to install an alternative operating system. In fact, security experts recommend against “jailbreaking” or injecting unauthorized software, as it could compromise the security of the Apple device.

We can also take steps with our hardware to keep our devices running, such as replacing old batteries. But over time, when the cost, effort, and risk increase and it becomes impractical to revive the device, upgrading is your best bet.

That doesn’t mean we have to take our equipment to a recycling center. For example, by turning off an outdated iPad’s Internet connection, you can safely use it for light tasks such as playing music or writing recipes, said Kyle Vince, iFixit’s chief executive, who provides tools and instructions for repairing tech products. .

“If it’s not connected to the net, it doesn’t matter if it’s outdated,” he said.

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