Google rolls out huge security update to Pixel phones, squashing 50 vulnerabilities

June 2024 has been a big month for Pixel smartphones. Not only did Gemini Nano roll out to the Pixel 8a, but Google also released a huge security update to multiple models. 

It addresses 50 vulnerabilities, ranging in severity from moderate to critical. One of the more insidious flaws is CVE-2024-32896, which Tom’s Guide states “is an elevation of privilege (EoP) vulnerability.” 

An EoP refers to a bug or design flaw that a bad actor can exploit to gain unfettered access to a smartphone’s resources. It’s a level of access that not even a Pixel owner normally has. Even though it’s not as severe as the others, CVE-2024-32896 did warrant an extra warning from Google on the patch’s Pixel Update Bulletin page, stating it “may be under limited, targeted exploitation.” 

In other words, it's likely bad actors are going to be targeting the flaw to infiltrate a Pixel phone, so it’s important that you install the patch.

Installing the fix

The rest of the patch affects other important components on the devices, such as the Pixel Firmware fingerprint sensor. It even fixes a handful of Qualcomm and Qualcomm closed-source components.

Google’s patch is ready to download for all supporting Pixel phones, and you can find the full list of models on the tech giant’s Help website here. They include but are not limited to the Pixel Fold, Pixel 7 series, and the Pixel 8 line.

To download the update, go to the Settings menu on your Pixel phone. Go to Security & Privacy, then to System & Updates. Scroll down to the Security Update and hit Install. Give your device enough time to install the patch and then restart your smartphone.

Existing on Android

It’s important to mention that the EoP vulnerability seems to exist on third-party Android hardware; however, a fix won’t come out for a while. As news site Bleeping Computer explains, the operating systems for Pixel and Android smartphones receive security updates at different times. The reason for this separate rollout is that third-party devices have their own “exclusive features and capabilities.” One comes out faster than the other.

Developers for GrapheneOS, a unique version of Android that is more focused on security, initially found the flaw in April. In a recent post on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), the team believes non-Pixel phones probably won’t receive the patch until the launch of Android 15. If you don’t get the new operating system, the EoP bug probably won't get removed. The GrapheneOS devs claim the June update “has not been backported.”

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best Android antivirus apps for 2024 if you want even more protection. 

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Twitter rolls back another terrible feature update in new speed record

In record time, Twitter has rolled back a feature that would force you to either look at two timelines or only view the 'Top Tweets' timeline, to the scorn of users.

For almost a week, users would have to switch between two timelines as they would scroll to see what new tweets were there from their brands and friends – myself included.

But it got to the point where I would be scrolling for five minutes, not realizing that I was on the 'Top Tweets' feed, not the 'Latest Tweets' feed.

It's a ridiculous design decision that didn't go down well with its many users. While there were some self-congratulatory tweets from designers at Twitter praising this reversal, I can't help but wonder if this was a feature purposely designed to annoy users for a short time, or communication of what users want in features at the company, has hit a new low.

Leave our feeds alone Twitter

I had spoken before about how much I hated this new feature, and I wasn't alone. Executives at Twitter were replying to others in how they were working on an alternative to this change in the feed, and we didn't have long to wait.

The alternative turned out to be Twitter reversing its decision to push 'Top Tweets' as if nothing happened. But it's an example of a feature that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Its change made no sense, and from a usability angle, it didn't give any benefits to the user.

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Having two timelines was confusing, and the added fact that the 'sparkle' icon on the top right, would give you the option to show one feed that no one wanted, was another baffling decision.

Every user on Twitter has different feeds from everyone else. It's what makes the social platform unique – its algorithm and the people you've decided to follow shape your interests while discovering new voices.

But features like this hinder the experience massively, and I'm not aware of anyone who likes to use the 'Top Tweets' feature. Twitter is a platform that many folks use to catch up on the latest news, regardless of the topic – it's not a magazine highlighting the last few days.

Hopefully, when the company realizes this, we will see less of these useless features and others that we can benefit from, such as an edit button.

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YouTube rolls out rings so you can tell when creators are livestreaming

There is a huge amount of content on YouTube, and a growing proportion of it is accounted for by live streams. While it is often possible to catch up on a live stream after it has ended, this means missing out on the excitement and sense of community that stems from watching a live event at the same time as others.

With this in mind, YouTube is making it easier to locate live streams. Borrowing an idea already used by both TikTok and Instagram, YouTube is making a tweak to avatars to make it clear when a channel is live streaming.

The change means that when a channel is live streaming, a ring will be displayed around its avatar as a clear and obvious indicator. More than this, if you click on the avatar, you will be taken directly to the live stream rather than to the creator's profile.

Ring, ring, ring

YouTube's Chief Product Officer, Neal Mohan, shared news of the change in a tweet:

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Analysis: what about desktop users?

There is no mention of desktop users at the moment, and it's unclear if the feature will migrate from mobile or not.

So, will this make it easier to find live streams? The answer really depends on how you use YouTube. People who are keen followers of a channel will likely be aware of upcoming live streams, and will have created a reminder to ensure they don't miss out. For the casual browser looking for YouTube videos based in comedy, it is unlikely to make a great deal of difference.

Some responses to Mohan's tweet also question the value of the change, but no new feature is ever going to delight everyone in equal measure.

For anyone who is keen to seek out live broadcasts rather than pre-recorded videos, it does provide another quick and easy way to differentiate one from the other. It may not be a change that generates a massive level of excitement from YouTube users, but it is a nice touch that brings the service in line with other video platforms.

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