If they don’t, Google now says the only thing it can do is inform various OEMs of the problem.
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Google’s response and policy change are raising major eyebrows.
Specifically, the company states that: If the affected version [of Web View] is before 4.4, we generally do not develop the patches ourselves, but welcome patches with the report for consideration.
Other than notifying OEMs, we will not be able to take action on any report that is affecting versions before 4.4 that are not accompanied with a patch. If they do, Google will “consider” the patch to see if it resolves the problem.
The flaws in this case affect Android 4.1 to 4.3, aka Jelly Bean, which began shipping in mid-2012 and was the primary version of Android through late 2013, or roughly 14 months ago.
Up until quite recently, Google has aggressively patched problems in Android’s Web View rendering engine.
Before Kit Kat (Android 4.4), all versions of Android used the version of Web View found within the Android Browser for rendering HTML webpages.
With Kit Kat and Lollipop, Google updated the operating system to use a Web View plugin derived from its Chromium project.
When it comes to providing security updates for previous products, various manufacturers have pursued different strategies.
Some, like Microsoft, tend to provide security updates long after they’ve stopped selling an operating system (Microsoft only stopped providing Windows XP support last year).
Others, like Google and Apple, have pursued tighter timelines for security updates.
Google is now doubling down on that schedule, refusing to patch bugs in Android 4.3 or prior, even when those bugs could expose critical vulnerabilities on nearly a billion devices.