Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Oct 2010 22:20 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless While we rail on Apple for its closed and restrictive policies regarding its iOS, with Apple you at least know what you're getting into. When you buy a mobile phone running Android, many do so because of its open and more free nature than the competing platforms - so you can imagine the surprise when the hackers at xda-developers found out the brand-new T-Mobile G2 has a hardware rootkit that will always restore the phone's original operating system upon installing a different ROM. HTC says it doesn't know of any such feature, and points towards the carrier (or Google).
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Good point
by WorknMan on Wed 6th Oct 2010 22:31 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

It wouldn't surprise me in the least that this feature came from the carrier - which would mean the bulk of the "feature" consists of software (good news). Still, it's sad that once again, the device you buy is actually not yours.


This is true. No matter how good the phone is, carriers will find a way to screw it up. I think Sprint might be a little better in this regard, but I really don't want to have to stand in my front yard just to get a signal, so what can you do?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Good point - yup, once again..
by jabbotts on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:14 UTC in reply to "Good point"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

It shows once again that Android should have been core distribution not a per-vendor spagetti mash. Let the flashing utility include two files; one for the Android standard image and one for a smaller binary of device specific drivers. Ideally vendors should be putting the hardware drivers directly back into the stock Android distribution but I could accept the slipstreamed driver package if they'd at least stop with the malware infested one-off firmware images.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Good point
by Soulbender on Thu 7th Oct 2010 01:38 UTC in reply to "Good point"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

No matter how good the phone is, carriers will find a way to screw it up.


Why are you guys buying the phones from the carrier? Can't you just buy the phone in a store and then just get the SIM card from the carrier?

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Good point
by gbil on Thu 7th Oct 2010 07:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Good point"
gbil Member since:
2008-01-05

Ha, you certainly don't live in the US where the vast majority of phonse are only sold from the carrier and if you don't go that way you are doomed (eg Nokia).

My suggestion is simpler, just don't buy it, there are many android phones in the market.

Edited 2010-10-07 07:43 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Good point
by Soulbender on Thu 7th Oct 2010 08:43 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Good point"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Ha, you certainly don't live in the US where the vast majority of phonse are only sold from the carrier


Correct, I certainly don't. One of these days I should go to the mall and take a few pictures of the cellphone shops jampacked with carrier-neutral phones just to make you americans jealous.

Reply Score: 5

Owning your phone
by scofmb on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:14 UTC
scofmb
Member since:
2010-02-20

Well.. If HTC were to blame(which i dont think so) that will be a really big shift from their previus policy... motorola on the other side, has a company policy of signed bootloader (they told us in the moto europe facebook page)... so i really hope is t-mobile doing.

I have a motorola milestone atm, and i bought not knowing about the signed bootloader, my next phone will be an HTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Owning your phone - my question
by jabbotts on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:17 UTC in reply to "Owning your phone"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

WTF is a service provider doing making a device firmware image? I pay them for a network connection and expertise not there developer skills. This, assuming it is the telco's firmware.

Reply Score: 2

a rootkit? hardware protection?
by tingo on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:15 UTC
tingo
Member since:
2007-10-13

What, so read-only filesystems with a separate data store are something new now? You could have fooled me.

Reply Score: 1

RE: a rootkit? - tinker friendly
by jabbotts on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:21 UTC in reply to "a rootkit? hardware protection?"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Stamping the base bios or os on a rom chip so it can't be modified is nothing new at all. In a device branded as "tinker friendly" and open; it's malware regardless of the method used to do it.

Reply Score: 3

Linux Kernel Configuration...
by TemporalBeing on Wed 6th Oct 2010 23:44 UTC
TemporalBeing
Member since:
2007-08-22

Most likely it's how they mount the file systems, such that they are simply using a layered file system approach. Linux supports this without any problems.

Prime benefit is resistance to power-failure - you don't have to worry about the changes in case the changes get corrupt.

So it's probably a combination: checksum the file system to let the hardware know when to remove the changes, and then just use a layered file system set for normal operation.

Reply Score: 4

timepilot00
Member since:
2008-08-31

T-Mobile is one of the more reasonable carriers in the US. My gf has a MyTouch Android device with Tmo, and they send out periodic magazines that highlight recommended Apps in the Android Markeplace. Some of the recommendations in the publication specifically mention needing to get root on your device before the app will run. Hard to imagine the same company crippling a phone to make this impossible.

Tmo will even unlock these devices if you ask them nicely. So let's wait for the FUD to die down and figure out exactly what's going on before blaming the "Carrier."

Reply Score: 2

Macrat Member since:
2006-03-27

Tmo will even unlock these devices if you ask them nicely


I tried that once. Got a form letter that they couldn't get the unlock code from the manufacturer.

Ended up just going to a 3rd party phone shop to unlock the phone.

Reply Score: 3

Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

T-Mobile is one of the more reasonable carriers in the US.


Indeed, this is one of the reasons I switched from ATT to T-Mobile. I had been hesitant to switch for the longest time, because if you just go by their website they seem to have more expensive plans. After taking the plunge, I found this to be completely untrue; I'm paying less for three lines on a family account with unlimited messaging and internet on all three devices, than I did for two lines on ATT with limited messaging and internet on one line only. I think the difference is that you can work with their sales staff, whereas with ATT you pretty much have to take what they shove down your throat.

Combine that with the great selection of smartphones, the (so far) excellent customer service and their open stance towards devices and I'm very happy to be with T-Mobile.

Having said all that, I find this article to be disconcerting. I want to believe that Tmo is the consumer-friendly carrier I've found them to be over the last few months, but I wonder if they are like Apple in a way: Open and accepting of consumer driven initiatives in some ways, and very anti-consumer in others.

Reply Score: 3

Easy restoration
by darknexus on Thu 7th Oct 2010 00:24 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

I wonder if this was done to make it possible to, no matter what has happened, reset the phone to its original rom? A layered fs would provide that nicely. Us techies may not like it, but I suspect this was put in for the convenience of the users. No matter what they do, what they install, or what they break, the phone can always be restored to a clean working state. Let's think about this logically before crying conspiracy, okay? It makes a lot of sense from T-mobile's point of view to do this, and would make it much easier to get peoples' phones back up and running if they end up corrupted..

Reply Score: 4

RE: Easy restoration
by Elv13 on Thu 7th Oct 2010 01:00 UTC in reply to "Easy restoration"
Elv13 Member since:
2006-06-12

Yea, it's a good security policy. Let's remember we actually hack our devices to root them, those security vulnerabilities are often kept there for years because users don't usually upgrade their phone if they don't have a centralized interface like iTunes to push them. As good as I like taking advantages of my hardware, I saw too much of Windows viruses over the year to think about myself first.

I will never buy a device that have not been rooted first. I waited the day until the second gen iTouch was rooted until buying mine, same for my Nexus.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Easy restoration
by gus3 on Thu 7th Oct 2010 07:43 UTC in reply to "Easy restoration"
gus3 Member since:
2010-09-02

"No matter what they do, what they install, or what they break, the phone can always be restored to a clean working state."

Yes, on non-smart phones, by removing the battery cover and pressing a pencil against a recessed button for five seconds, or shorting two pins, or some such. It isn't going to happen by accident, or in secret when you power up. That is exactly *not* the case with the G2.

This maneuver by (who? Google? HTC? T-Mobile? someone else?) is dirty, at best. It's yet another example of why the GPLv3 includes special language to prohibit Tivo-ization of embedded devices.

I read stories like this, and I'm so glad I don't have a "smart" phone that thinks it can arrogate the authority to dictate to me what I can and can't do.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Easy restoration
by FunkyELF on Thu 7th Oct 2010 11:37 UTC in reply to "RE: Easy restoration"
FunkyELF Member since:
2006-07-26

Yes, on non-smart phones, by removing the battery cover and pressing a pencil against a recessed button for five seconds, or shorting two pins, or some such. It isn't going to happen by accident, or in secret when you power up. That is exactly *not* the case with the G2.


Some might say it is better with the G2. Certainly better for tech support when they can simply say "Did you try rebooting your phone?".

In any case, I'm not ready to cry foul play. It seems like a good feature for the other 99.5% of people out there who run stock firmware.

Reply Score: 2

rootkit
by Soulbender on Thu 7th Oct 2010 01:46 UTC
Soulbender
Member since:
2005-08-18

Exactly how is this a rootkit? Did the definition change overnight?

Reply Score: 3

Comment by bile
by bile on Thu 7th Oct 2010 03:00 UTC
bile
Member since:
2005-07-08

"Still, it's sad that once again, the device you buy is actually not yours."

Yes it is. You can do what you please with the phone... but HTC, Google and T-Mobile are under no obligation to provide you with any particular service if you wish to modify it or in this case to enable you to modify easily.

If you want an easily hacked phone buy the one marketed as such: the Nexus One.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by bile
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 7th Oct 2010 08:45 UTC in reply to "Comment by bile"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Yes it is. You can do what you please with the phone... but HTC, Google and T-Mobile are under no obligation to provide you with any particular service if you wish to modify it or in this case to enable you to modify easily.


But they also don't have the right to block you from modifying your OWN device. Sure, they can kill support and kick you from their service (and even that is debatable in Europe), but they can't prevent you. That's dirty and evil.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by bile
by Timmmm on Thu 7th Oct 2010 11:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by bile"
Timmmm Member since:
2006-07-25

There's no evidence that they have. As other people have said, the main purpose of this layered file-system is to protect the data from accidental damage and to provide a reliable way to restore the phone to its original condition.

The fact that it makes custom modifications harder is probably an unfortunate side effect.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by bile
by chmeee on Thu 7th Oct 2010 12:41 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by bile"
chmeee Member since:
2006-01-10

There's nothing stopping you from taking a soldering iron or JTAG programmer to the device.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by bile
by andydread on Thu 7th Oct 2010 20:11 UTC in reply to "Comment by bile"
andydread Member since:
2009-02-02


If you want an easily hacked phone buy the one marketed as such: the Nexus One.


The Nexus One is no longer available. So where in the marketplace can one find an Android phone that to date does not go to lengths to block the user's freedom?

Reply Score: 2

Hold your horses
by Auxx on Thu 7th Oct 2010 09:58 UTC
Auxx
Member since:
2007-04-05

Still, it's sad that once again, the device you buy is actually not yours.

Slow down here for a moment. G2 is sold with contract, one of its "features" is provider lock. This "root-kit" is a way to enforce that lock which you signed for. This is your sane choise to buy locked phone, so what are your complaints? You sign a contract, you get what you signed for. Don't like contract terms? Go and buy HTC Desire Z - same device, no contract.

Some might say it is hard to buy SIM free phone in US. Well, you have some options: ebay, EU online shops, your democracy. If you believe your country is democratic then change laws of your country, make these contracts outlaw.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Hold your horses
by Gryzor on Thu 7th Oct 2010 11:52 UTC in reply to "Hold your horses"
Gryzor Member since:
2005-07-03

If you believe your country is democratic then change laws of your country, make these contracts outlaw.


US Democratic? I’m still laughing. ;)

note: I’m in Europe.

Edited 2010-10-07 11:53 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Hold your horses
by roblearns on Thu 7th Oct 2010 21:08 UTC in reply to "Hold your horses"
roblearns Member since:
2010-09-13

You are confusing issues. If you sign a contract you will abide by its terms.

One of the terms, is if you cancel early, you pay an early termination fee. That is purely a financial consideration. So, imagine I got my G2, paid the early termination fee - I'm in complete compliance with the terms of my contract. Why do you think I can't do what I want, with my phone, that I bought, with my money?

Or, let says I get a G2, and one month later I decide I want a Samsung phone instead. I buy one off ebay. Why do you think I shouldn't be able to unlock my G2 and sell it to ebay? I'm carrying the contract to full term, so why can't I do what I want, with the phone that I own?

Stop confusing a contract, with a carrier lock.

Those carrier locks have nothing to do with your contract, and unlike your contract, they never expire.

Your 2g iPhone could be off contract for many years now, you could have upgraded to the 3g, the 3gs, and the iPhone 4 - and AT&T will never unlock that 2g iphone, not ever.

You must do it yourself.

I know a lot of people love big corporations - to each his own - but this is not about the contract - what enforces the contract, is the law. You owe what you owe, and believe me, they'll make you pay. It has nothing to do with the phone being locked or unlocked.

They want to lock the phone to their carrier, so that even if you complete all the terms of your contract, anyone who ever comes across that phone, even the 10th owner of the phone, 20 years from now, still must subscribe to their network.

And that, my friend....defend all you want - is ABSURD.

Edited 2010-10-07 21:12 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Hold your horses
by Auxx on Fri 8th Oct 2010 10:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Hold your horses"
Auxx Member since:
2007-04-05

If you see a sign "Mine field" and still walk there it's your own problem. Everyone knows that operator contracts are mine fields, but still people sign them and then complain about something. And this is totally absurd. Don't be stupid, buy unlocked phones - there will be no problems.

Reply Score: 1

may it be the SIM card ?
by namakemono on Thu 7th Oct 2010 13:19 UTC
namakemono
Member since:
2009-07-01

I did not see the hackers page, but what if they change the SIM card ?
Once I bought a cell phone from my phone carrier, asked to unlock it and give it to my wife´s sister. When she put in the SIM card and powered the phone, it started to download and install a lot of programs of her carrier.
So, she ended with a device "customized" from the SIM card. I was annoyed and glad she was not borrowing the phone.

Reply Score: 1

Please stop whining (for the wrong things)
by zimbatm on Thu 7th Oct 2010 14:28 UTC
zimbatm
Member since:
2005-08-22

It's actually a GOOD thing(tm). Rooting in that case is attained by escaping the jail. While it can be legitimate, it also allows unauthorized software to run as root (you know, stuff like viruses and friends)
An average user can here reboot the phone and not worry.

If you want to whine, then do it because they don't give us a way to gain root access legitimately.

Reply Score: 1

Upgrades
by arpan on Thu 7th Oct 2010 15:18 UTC
arpan
Member since:
2006-07-30

But that section can't really be read-only right?

Surely it should be possible to upgrade the phone to the next version of Android when that is released. If the updater can change the read-only section, then it should be possible for the jail-breakers to change it as well. I doubt if it will take long to break this.

Reply Score: 2