When does an old iPhone become a security risk?

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I’m a big believer in keeping your technology as long as possible. I still have my original Touch Bar MacBook Pro and I plan on putting it in the ground. But a legitimate reason to upgrade your technology is when a company stops supporting it with security updates. That begs the question: How Iabout ceachyou yousee an iPhone bbefore It is likesecurity risk?

Security updates keep you and your devices safe

I’m not talking about feature updates, mind you. Sure, it’s a shame if your iPhone doesn’t get 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 popping up.

Let’s say you have a smartphone whose OEM has completely dropped support. At some point, a major security hole is discovered that allows malicious parties to run any code they want on your phone and essentially take over it. Perhaps they achieve this through a malicious link in a text or email, or run a 2FA code scam over the phone. Regardless, this vulnerability exists and puts users at risk.

Once the OEM finds a patch for the vulnerability, they release a security update for all devices they still support. But since your device is not on that list, it remains unprotected. That’s the point where even someone like me will admit it’s time to upgrade to a new device. Cybersecurity is no joke.

Now Android devices often have set dates when OEMs drop support. Companies such as Google and Samsung give their latest devices guaranteed security updates for five years. For example, if you buy a Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, you are protected until at least October 2027. But if Google decides to cut ties there, your Pixel will no longer be protected from new security vulnerabilities from November 2027.

Apple has been supporting its devices with security updates for quite some time

However, the iPhone is a bit of a unique device in terms of security support. While Apple never gives its products an end-of-life timeline, they do support them for one long time. For example, Apple supported the iPhone 6S with full software updates through iOS 15. And while the company dropped the phones for iOS 16, that meant it supported the 6S with feature updates for seven years.

But that is position updates. Apple is still releasing security updates for the 6S, as well as any other device stuck on iOS 15. In fact, the company is releasing software updates for any iPhone stuck on iOS 12. We saw that this week with the most recent batch of software and security updates. While supported iPhones saw iOS 16.3 clicked on their Software Updates tab, Apple also released iOS 15.7.3 and iOS 12.5.7 to give older devices with those versions critical security patches. iOS 15.7.3 patches five vulnerabilities, while iOS 12.5.7 patches one.

However, the iPhones still running iOS 12 are old. 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 is still supporting your device with essential security patches almost 10 years later.

It’s not just the iPhone that benefits here. Apple releases the same security patches for iPadOS, meaning 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, meaning some 2013 Macs are also protected.

A secure iPhone is not necessarily a fast iPhone

Now it’s not necessarily ideal to use a device this old in 2023. Once Apple falls software support for a device, as with the 5S, 6 and 6 Plus after iOS 12, app developers are also slowly starting to drop support. And while you can replace an aging battery, the older hardware (especially the lack of memory) keeps the apps running are still more difficult to support.

But it still is safe to use these devices. Once we see Apple stop releasing security updates, as seems to be the case with iOS 11 and earlier, then the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus should be gracefully discontinued. But from now on, you can theoretically safely use your iPhone for at least ten years.