Skip to main content

You may want to think twice about buying a Samsung or Pixel phone

A new report from Project Zero, Google’s internal security research team, says that a laundry list of devices using Exynos modems are at a high risk of major security breaches that would give remote users the ability to very easily “compromise a phone at the baseband level.” Notably, the recently released Pixel 7 is among those that are open to attack, alongside the Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy S22, to name just a few.

Obviously, this is a major issue, but not all hope is lost, as the problem is certainly fixable. The big question is when a fix for all affected devices is coming. Here’s everything you need to know about the vulnerability and what you can do to keep your smartphone safe.

Why Samsung and Pixel phones are in danger

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra next to the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The report from Project Zero says that the vulnerabilities originate in Exynos modems that are made by Samsung Semiconductor. According to tests conducted by Project Zero, affected devices were able to be compromised by the attacker simply knowing the victim’s phone number. Due to the severity of the issue, Project Zero believes that “skilled attackers would be able to quickly create an operational exploit to compromise affected devices silently and remotely.”

Because of how much sensitive information is kept on smartphones, this could turn into a major issue if not dealt with immediately. Project Zero found 18 vulnerabilities in the Exynos modems, but luckily, only four of them have the severe issues mentioned above. The other 14 are described as “not as severe, as they require either a malicious mobile network operator or an attacker with local access to the device.”

Which Samsung and Pixel phones are affected?

The back of the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The unfortunate part of the vulnerability is that Project Zero lists more than 20 devices that are at risk. According to their findings, users with the following devices may be at risk to one of the 18 vulnerabilities:

  • Mobile devices from Samsung, including those in the S22, M33, M13, M12, A71, A53, A33, A21s, A13, A12, and A04 series
  • Mobile devices from Vivo, including those in the S16, S15, S6, X70, X60, and X30 series
  • The Pixel 6, Pixel 6a, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Pro
  • Any vehicles that use the Exynos Auto T5123 chipset

Galaxy owners will take note that the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S23 lines are absent from the list on account of the fact that they use Qualcomm modems. The S22 models that are affected should just be the ones in select European and African countries since the rest of the world’s S22 devices also use Qualcomm modems.

How to keep yourself safe

Samsung Galaxy S22 held in hand.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

While things may look bad currently for devices using Exynos modems, there are some things that owners can do to keep their phones safe. The first is to turn on auto-updates for any potentially affected devices. With that turned on, the phone will get security patches as soon as they go live. Google has already started focusing on resolving the issue and reports that its March security update should fix any issues with its hardware.

What about Samsung? In response to these security issues, Samsung gave Digital Trends the following statement:

“Samsung takes the safety of our customers very seriously. After determining 6 vulnerabilities may potentially impact select Galaxy devices, of which none were ‘severe’, Samsung released security patches for 5 of these in March. Another security patch will be released in April to address the remaining vulnerability.”

“As always, we recommend that all users keep their devices updated with the latest software to ensure the highest level of protection possible.”

As device owners wait for fixes, Project Zero has some suggestions regarding what they can do to minimize their risks, including turning off Wi-Fi calling and voice-over-LTE (VoLTE.) Doing this will potentially degrade the audio quality of your phone calls, but the alternative of remaining at risk is much worse. Other than adjusting those two settings, there’s not much else that can be done as we all wait for the potential fixes to go live.

Peter Hunt Szpytek
A podcast host and journalist, Peter covers mobile news with Digital Trends and gaming news, reviews, and guides for sites…
6 big announcements we expect at Samsung Galaxy Unpacked on Wednesday
Teaser for Samsung Galaxy Unpacked July 2024.

Samsung officially announced that its next Galaxy Unpacked event will be held on July 10 in Paris. This is earlier than previous years due to the Paris 2024 Olympics that start on July 26, which Samsung is sponsoring.

From what we know so far, this is going to be a jam-packed Galaxy Unpacked event, with lots of updates to existing hardware, plus some new products from Samsung.

Read more
Should you buy the Galaxy Watch 6 or wait for the Galaxy Watch 7?
Weather widget on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6.

The annual turnaround for most devices is relentless and merciless. Even if a device still feels new to you, there's likely a new version of it just around the corner, taunting you with a new design, upgraded specs, or improved features. How much this bothers you comes down to how strongly you feel FOMO (fear of missing out), but it's probably going to strike even stronger when you're looking to buy a new device.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 is an excellent device and one of our favorite Android smartwatches. But it appears to be getting even less time in the sun than usual, with its successor, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 7, set to launch on July 10. Knowing a newer version of the device you want is on the way is always going to make you think twice -- but should it? While we only have whispers and leaks of the Galaxy Watch 7's capabilities, it's not hard to imagine it'll be more powerful than the Galaxy Watch 6 and loaded down with extra features.

Read more
New details just leaked about Samsung’s next Galaxy S24 phone
Galaxy S24 FE in light green.

It appears that today's news is all about smartphone colors. Earlier, we mentioned that an upcoming Google Pixel 9 could be available in a bright pink color. Now, we have information about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S24 FE colors.

According to leaker Ross Young (posting on X, formerly Twitter), Samsung plans to release its next "Fan Edition" phone in black, gray, light blue, light green, and yellow. The Galaxy S23 FE is currently available in graphite, purple, cream, mint, tangerine, and indigo.

Read more