The future of mobile operating system or the end for "hackers" and rooting? Answered
For mayn years it was almost logical to get full root access on your new smartphone or tablet.
The other fraction might now it as "jailbreaking"...
No one really needs it unless they are not happy with they way the mnufacturer designed the operating system and features.
The removal of bloat, apps the user never needs, is still the most common reason for rooting.
Custom ROM's offering a different experience are right behind.
Now we also have TV's, entertainment boxes of all kinds, even from our ISP's directly.
The main provider for the operating system is now Google with only a few "competitors" left.
Apple has a strong hold of the mobile and tablet sector too but is not really presented in other areas.
Android is still open source but Google heavily modifed it to suit the needs of data collecting and security for features like banking, access control and so on.
What is good for the normal user and perfect for those with security in mind can be really bad for those actually just using a device.
No matter why you buy a new phone from your provider, you almost never buy it for the added apps and services.
Rooting has become more and more difficult.
One reason of course is constant security updates and removing possible access options for even simple things like getting USB debugging and an unlocked bootloader.
People dedicated to find ways to remove provider locks, creating custom firmwares or the basic tools required to work with firmwares were called hackers.
If you buy a new car and decide to modify it with a new engine, seats or whatever than no one will stop you.
So why don't we have the same rights for our electronic companions?
I wouldn't call it hacking, I would call it actually owning and controlling your device instead of Google letting control you - or Apple, but who cares....
The other reason is dead simple: Those guys who started it all have retired or found employoment with those they fooled for so many years.
Chainfire should ring a bell for anyone ever concerned with rooting.
The master is gone now and only a few people are willing to take his legacy.
For Asian devices the community over there is better off but for our market region right now Magisk seems to be the only option left for modern devices.
The sneaky ways to lock us out....
Security comes at a price, simple as.
You can offer secrity for money transfers if the device is not trustworthy.
Same for online streaming - you want the money for what you give and prevent that someone is able to make unwanted recordings without encryption.
The list goes on with access control system and literally everything we use our devices for that involves some security.
Even with the lates PIE systems Google's own devices are still quite friendly in terms of gaining root access.
Different story though if a manufacturer makes full use of all the latest addition at Google's disposal.
Device security no longer starts with the boot we see.
It is now possible to create a hardware based tree of trust.
This means any modification to anything will cause a failure.
This locks out all "tools" able to read out partitions and vital data while a device is in fastboot mode.
And of course said fastboot can be fully disabled as well now.
For security reason a so called A/B configuration is used.
Updates come over the air and are applied to the dormant system.
Next start will boot the new system and then update the old one, no requirement to manually apply and update.
The recovery can also be abandoned and replaced by a system using a copy on the device itself that is updated through OTA updates with the firmware.
So both ways to gain official access can be full removed from the user.
From there we get encryption, hash checks and literally everything working in its own user space - a full SELinux enviroment at the highest level.
There are already devices utilising a lot of this and so far the only way to get any sort of insight was done by those intercepting OTA updates on a router level.
And apart from quickly changing the encryption with the next updates nothing was gained.
Is it all coincidence?
Of course not.
Well known leaks were kept open for years.
Kernel updates gave improvements and closed really old leaks but never all known ways.
With the retirement of the best rooting experts these holes were suddenly closed.
Checks of latest kernel releases showed that there is no known vulenerabilities anymore that can be misused to gain access.
And those finding new ones and making them available for us are bascally gone now.
Encryptions and packing algorithms changed, same thing for the actual handling of partitions and rights.
Anyone with a decent understanding of how the old ways worked will be able to figure it out with some time wasted on it.
From there however the outcome is often dark.
The tools needed to work with these new files are not always updated anymore.
The developer simply moved on and most of the time without publishing his source codes.
And the still best way to protect your firmware from tampering is to encrypt it.
In the old days it was enough to sign a ZIP file with a release key not available to the public.
Custom recoveries allowed us to get around this.
This still works to some extent but now we also get additional checks starting from the bootloader.
A modified system will be detected and stopped and a stock system will stop i a modified boot is detected.
Even using a custom recovery by flashing or through fastboot is preventable now.
Right now the only way for most new devices is a total wipe and the installation of an unsecure firmware with everything.
As you already guessed this is to prevent now as well.
So does all this rooting stuff actually concern you?
Of course not!
If you never had any need for rooting or no clue what to do differently with a rooted device than you are a happy camper.
But your neighbour or friend might think differently.
You see, I have two problems when it comes to "stock" devices.
a) I have no clue what data they collect from me and what it might be used for.
b) I do not like being forced to agree to terms that are endless and of questionable content just to use the damn thing.
For crying out loud: In most cases it is now impossible to even set up a new device without working internet and a Google account.....