Friday, April 5, 2013

Security Risks of Unlocking Android Phone is Bootloader

7:37 AM

Note: If this tutorial worked for you (and it should work), please leave a comment below. Thanks.

Why Android Bootloaders Come Locked

Android devices come with locked bootloaders for a reason. It’s not just that carriers and manufacturers want to own your hardware and prevent you from installing custom ROMS on it – although they do – there are good security reasons. Even Google’s Nexus line of devices, intended as developer devices, have locked bootloaders.

A device with a locked bootloader will only boot the operating system currently on it. You can’t install a custom operating system – the bootloader will refuse to load it.

Android Wipes Itself When You Unlock Your Bootloader

If you have a Nexus device like a Nexus 4 or Nexus 7, there’s a quick, official way to unlock your bootloader. As part of this process, Android wipes all data on your device. You get a device with an unlocked bootloader, but one that has none of your data on it. You can then install a custom ROM.

This is obnoxious to people who just want to root their device without going through a long setup process, but it’s an important security precaution. Your PIN or password protects access to your Android device, and unlocking the bootloader opens holes that allow people with physical access to your device to bypass your PIN or password.

Bypassing Your PIN or Password

If your Android phone has a standard locked bootloader when a thief gets their hands on it, they won’t be able to access the device’s data without knowing its PIN or password. (Of course, a very determined thief could crack open the phone and remove the storage to read it in another device.)

If your Android phone or tablet’s bootloader is unlocked when a thief gets their hands on it, they could reboot your device into its bootloader and boot your custom recovery environment (or flash a custom recovery and then boot that). From the recovery mode, they could use the adb command to access all the data on your device. This bypasses any PIN or password used to secure your device

Bypassing Encryption With a Freezer

If your Android phone or tablet is running when a thief gets their hands on it, they could theoretically put the phone in the freezer for an hour before flashing a new operating system on it. We covered this when we explained how freezers and cold temperatures can bypass encryption – essentially, the encryption key remains in your device’s RAM for much longer if the RAM is cooled, and it can be extracted before it disappears.

However, Android’s boot loader comes locked for a reason. With Android phones being used by businesses and governments, a locked boot loader provides additional security protection against corporate espionage and other governments’ spies should a phone become stolen or lost.

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