While the top 5G networks in the US including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless continue to expand their coverage across the country, most smartphones still allow interoperability with 4G / 3G / 2G networks. There are cases where your device tries to connect to available 2G networks and the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that this poses a security risk.
Fortunately, Google added the ability to disable 2G modems on Android phones, though this may have gone unnoticed by everyone. According to the EFF, the 2G kill switch is a useful feature designed to protect devices from "invasive police surveillance technology" known as cell site simulators.
For the uninitiated, these simulators are used to mimic an actual 2G tower to intercept communications due to the lack of authentication from towers to devices. There is also a lack of strong encryption between 2G towers and devices, which could allow attackers to crack this connection in real time to intercept calls and text messages.
This does not seem to be a problem as most modern smartphones are now connecting to 4G signals. On the other hand, mobile site simulators can downgrade your connection from 4G to 2G when the former is not available in a specific area. It is necessary to turn off 2G at modem level to keep your data safe.
But there is a catch. The EFF says the feature is only available on newer devices "due to limitations of old hardware." Mishaal Rahman also noted that you will need to update your device to Radio HAL version 1.6 to access the kill switch. However, most devices upgraded from Android 11 do not support the latest Radio HAL due to Google's freeze of requirements, according to XDA developers.
That said, this should not bother device owners running Android 12 out of the box. For example, if you have a Google Pixel 6, you can turn off 2G by navigating to Settings> Network & Internet> SIM card> Allow 2G. From there, you can disable the option.
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