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Dangers of Rooting Your Mobile Device

by Dan Lowe, on 14 October 2013

Often times you may not want the wireless provider and/or handset manufacturer to limit control over the device.

Often times you may not want the wireless provider and/or handset manufacturer to limit control over the device. Rooting is the process of giving yourself root permission or privilege control over your Android device or subsystem. There are many advantages and disadvantages for changing your mobile phone configuration.

For example: I want to share mobile phone internet connection with my laptop so I can continue my research when I am at a park where there is no wireless network. In order to do this, I would pay a monthly fee to my wireless provider and use the tether feature which serves as a hub that allows me to grant wireless internet access to devices that are close to me. To overcome this limitation, I would go to a developer or Android forum or wiki page to get instructions to root my phone. Once I follow their instructions, now I can load software that allows me to freely share my 3g or 4g mobile data with my laptop. Though I believe this service should be free, my provider wants to charge me to use this service. I do not recommend rooting because it will void your warranty and/or brick your phone. Bricking your phone means that doing this can screw up your system so bad that your phone will not function properly and might as well use it as a brick.

The example above shows you just one of the reasons why people would want to root their mobile device. The problems are that it can brick your device and you will end up purchasing a brand new device because you have voided the warranty. There is a security risk of not knowing whether the software that you are downloading is malware. Because root access goes around the security restrictions originally set-up on the device, there is no way of telling whether the application you are downloading is going to do what it mentions on the website or application description. You have to implicitly trust the publisher.

There are different antivirus solutions that scan the application before you install it into your mobile device and I recommend installing an antivirus program within your device. There are free antivirus solutions, just go to Google Play store and look up your antivirus within the security section. I do recommend also using an antivirus program that has some URL filtering or web security capabilities as this can prevent you from going to a malicious site if you use your browser to search for additional Android applications that are not listed in Google Play.

There are reputable resources that test the detection capabilities against other mobile antivirus products like AV Comparatives or AV-Test to name a couple. Beware of sources that use an author who is still in college does not adequately test the product. He or she rather look at opinions then write an article based on a certain viewpoint without statistical evidence to back-up their claim.

Dan Lowe

Dan Lowe, an OEM Senior Marketing Manager, has been working with Bitdefender for the last 3 ½ years. His familiarity with multiple security products from Firewalls to Antivirus has provided him a unique perspective on the security industry.

On Oct.15.2013 12:50

calin said

is this similar to jailbreaking an iOS device ?

Thank you for your question! Here is a brief explanation.

Jailbreaking an iOS device removes certain restrictions and limitations placed by Apple therefore a custom kernel is used to grant root access to the device. Just remember that iOS is a closed operating system which means you cannot make changes to the source code.

Android is an open source operating system that allows you to do much more than install 3rd party applications. Rooting gives you access to most of the operating system. By rooting the device, you can completely remove and replace the entire operating system of the device. You can gain access to the flash memory chip on the device which is not possible with iOS devices.

On Oct.15.2013 19:06

Paul said

Although rooting your own phone has its risks, sometimes is the only way to remove unwanted, data hungry aplication that both fill the phone memory and download all kind of craps that were not demanded, and even worse these apps consumes your wirless data plan while connected, and on some phones (like samsung) is not always easy to stop the wireless connection(very deep burried settings).And the second not so good thing about current security suites for android smartphones is that they usually depend on a database that is on the network, but what if the virus is new and unknown and it disconnects the phone from network or even worse it redirects all data trafic ?Lets say that it may trigger the antivirus and succesfully blocks it, but what if it does not get triggered ?

Comment
Thank you! These are some great points. Cybercriminals are very smart individuals, but working collectively as a group, they are much more dangerous. Antivirus technologies need continual improvement as it is becoming a more dangerous to be on the Internet. If you are using an antivirus product, keep scanning your devices as there are updates that may identify new malware.

On Oct.16.2013 01:38

EroticaXP said

Loads of bull! If you are so tech litterate enough to root your own phone w/o the help of others you should be skilled enough to reset the firmware to stock or at least update it via the PC Suite. If you root your phone and you are dumb enough to get viruses then the problem lies with the user not the device. Prolly you already know that the good marketed is you and your habits whenever you dload a free app. As Google has strict guidelines in order to accept an app on Play, I see no reason not to root your phone. Warranty lost? So what? For a couple of coins you get it refirmwared and for the same amount monthly you get insurance. Don't work ... just smack it to the wall and poof goes the alterations. Operators and everyone out there looking to make a cent off me WITHOUT actually selling anything or who's trying to tell me what to do with MY device might aswell choke on it. Tethering is the right of the customer to do as he sees fit with the internet provided by the operator as long as there are no abuses like big spent quota over short time, torrents or other illicit activities that might prevent others from accesing the service at a lesser quality. Not to mention you have to be really desperate to rely on mobile broadband for something other than WWW/Mail/Facebook and at the very end, Youtube which at times might turn into a bwidth hog. Oh, and my last bit ...there are numerous apps on GPlay that do only one thing... put the root rights in your hands via a GUI. Basically when you root your phone, the program called superuser.apk on your phone that handles and denies all root access request gets replaced with one of these modified softwares that bassically do the same thing UNLESS instructed by the user to allow root accces. I have not seen one instance in which the user input has been circumvented and trust me i have been a very naughty boy when it comes to testing and experimenting with Android. As there most certainly are methods to circumvent the user input on root access, getting an AV for your phone sounds like a good idea. Most solutions for Android are free and reliable enough. This can keep an untrained eye in the safe zone. ROOT YOUR PHONE ONLY IF YOU MEAN BUSSINESS!!! IF YOU ALREADY ROOTED then help your phone further in reaching its true potential. Most phone users will do with just the dialler, messaging and facebook. Others want more out of the couple hundreds whatevers you spent on that piece of tech. Be true! Be Android!

On Oct.16.2013 12:01

AntiVirus Annihilates Viruses said

Root in mobile device is dangers!

Thank you very much!!!

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Authors

  • Bitdefender Security Specialists
    Bitdefender Labs
  • Catalin Cosoi
    Chief Security Researcher
  • Dan Lowe
    Dan Lowe, an OEM Senior Marketing Manager, has been working with Bitdefender for the last 3 ½ years. His familiarity with multiple security products from Firewalls to Antivirus has provided him a unique perspective on the security industry.
  • Ligia Adam
    Security Evangelist and Social Media Professional
  • Loredana Botezatu
    Loredana Botezatu – E-threat Analyst – Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years. She has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.

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