T-Mobile's Latest Android Phone Comes With Free Freedom-Destroying Rootkit

from the get-yours-now! dept

Lots of folks have been highlighting the news that T-Mobile, for whatever reason, has decided to include some sort of "rootkit" with its latest Android phone, the G2. Despite the fact that one of the key selling points of an Android phone is the openness of the phone, T-Mobile has apparently decided that it's way too open. So, the little bug watches if you modify the phone, and then automatically reinstalls the default Android version -- including "all of the carrier settings and restrictions." Of course, T-Mobile is free to be as dickish towards its customers as it wants to be, but those customers can simply decide to go elsewhere.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:14pm

    Mobile Phone Sleaze

    This is a standard case of sleazy behavior from a mobile phone network provider. Who is surprised?

     

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  2.  
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    David, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:14pm

    That's quite sensationalistic, if someone adamant about rooting the phone a circumvention will be found.

     

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  3.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:18pm

    No vendor-locked phones for me, thanks

    My old Nokia (free w/ AT&T account) was the last locked phone I'll ever purchase. Now I have 2 unlocked Android Nexus One phones (one for T-Mobile, one for AT&T) and I will NEVER purchase another vendor-locked phone, no matter how much more I have to pay. Freedom has no price...

     

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  4.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    The title of this post got me thinking. I wonder how many people would be duped into thinking they were getting something special if T-Mobile actually advertised the phone with "FREE Rootkit Included!"

     

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  5.  
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    dave, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    A little late to the party...
    It was discovered last week that it is NOT a rootkit but just a recovery partition like you find on 90% of consumer PCs. On boot, the OS on the active partition is compared to the recovery partition; if they don't match it uses the 'safe' recovery one.

    The phone has already been rooted, it's just that the changes are reverted when the phone resets. It won't take long to gain access to the 'other' root.

    As to 'little bugs' watching what you... Please. Grow up. HTC / Tmobile are contractually obliged to release the source code for their Android phones. There's nothing fishy going on there, just bad reporting.

     

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  6.  
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    TheStupidOne, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    And I thought DroidX was bad

    To T-Mobile ... Android is based on open technology and the people who value that will most certainly continue to buy Android phones, but they will not buy yours. Perhaps you don't value them as much as the people that aren't as tech savvy, but you forget that the most techie people are the people that the non-techies look to for advise when buying a technology they don't fully understand. I for one will never recommend your phone to anyone, and will absolutely not buy it myself. Better luck next time.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    considering phones are heavily subsidized by carriers, they have always locked down phones as much as they can to their carrier. It doesn't have anything to do with being "open". As long as consumers flock to subsidized phones, this practice will remain.

     

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  8.  
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    ofb2632 (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Living with their heads in the clouds

    WOW.. talk about a company that really does not understand what consumers really want. I wonder if they are that arrogant and think people wont leave.
    The first cellular company that actually listens to everyday normal people and makes changes geared to what we really want, will become the number one cell phone company. Too bad they only listen to other cell phone companies and not the consumers.

     

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  9.  
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    sehlat (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Living with their heads in the clouds

    Actually, the situation is (somewhat) predictable. The cell phone companies don't have to outrun the bear. They just have to outrun the slowest company.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

    Why even bother with this? What does this serve except to give one more target to root/hack and piss off users? The only response I can foresee TMobile saying is "because fuck you, that's why."

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Training Wheels

    This reminds me how Windows will automatically restore protected system files- such as files located in the system32 folder. It's done to protect the general user and can be seen as an annoyance or "dickish" shall we say, to a 1337 hax0r.

    Can anyone confirm that unlocking it will also take off the training wheels? By this I mean when T-Mobile unlocks the phone..?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    I'm holding off rooting my Verizon LG Ally until the 2.2 release comes out but I can't wait. I may just go for it. The Ally only has 256 megs of app storage (2.2 will be a blessing for being able to store apps on the SD card) but Verizon/LG sees the need to force all kinds of crap applications on us that can't be disabled or uninstalled. Amazon MP3, Visual Voice Mail, etc. They put out a new update last week that forced us to have a trial version of CityID always running (shows city/state on incoming calls) that will ask for money after 14 days but you can't uninstall it and Skype which runs as a service that you can disable or uninstall either. Still better than a Tmobile phone that unroots itself I guess.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Training Wheels

    Windows was never claimed to be an open platform...

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:05pm

    sounds like T-mobile applying for Iphone.

    im sure jobs loves them for this trick

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    Re:

    "On boot, the OS on the active partition is compared to the recovery partition; if they don't match it uses the 'safe' recovery one.

    The phone has already been rooted, it's just that the changes are reverted when the phone resets. It won't take long to gain access to the 'other' root."

    That's all fine and dandy, but what about if I want to change the OS, like I am supposed to? I'm supposed to make some crazy-ass hack? No thanks, I'll switch to some other Android that isn't as retarded.

    "HTC / Tmobile are contractually obliged to release the source code for their Android phones."

    I don't think they are. The Apache license allows them to modify Android and distribute it under a different license, as long as they keep any copyrights, patents and other yadda yadda intact, which technically means they don't have to release the source for their own applications (the little bug watching you for example) or modifications they do to Android. I could be wrong however. Licenses confuse the heck out of me.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:23pm

    I can see this being explained as a security feature, what I don't understand is why they didn't say so or boosted about it in some way or have they and I didn't see it?

    Anyways, that is why others will get more business, to the layman this is no different from a virus or something bad, people will trust their neighborhood geek that will tell them that T-Mobile is bad.

     

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  17.  
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    Jim L, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:26pm

    T-Mobile and Android

    I'm currently running Android 2.2 on my wife's HTC (Windows) HD2 with no complaints from T-Mobile.

    T-Mobile will unlock any of their phones that you own 3 months after you buy it. I still plan to buy a G2 to replace my G1 very soon. If I find I don't want this I will get rid of it in three months.

     

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  18.  
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    Erik Zeek (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re:

    There are many different licenses in the code that makes up Android. For instance the kernel is Linux, released under the GPL. For GPLed code they must release their changes.

    I believe that you are correct, though, about the Apache licensed code. They don't have to release their changes for code under that license.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 5:42pm

    In case anyone hasn't noticed.... the demographic T-mobile aims for are kids 8-14. Their products are more or less geared toward mindless parents who think they're getting their spoiled ass kids the latest and greatest hoping to get them to shut up about "buy me this this this."

    Personally I don't see why any kid should have a cell phone, you wanna talk to your friends get off your fat ass and actually go socialize with them. Want a cell phone? then get a damned job, learn some personal responsibility, and gain some independence.

    "But my kids has one for emergency uses...." Well guess what genius, they make phones specifically for that purpose only, no monthly fees no annual contracts, just $20 and "they're safe."

    The only reason companies continue to make such useless piece of shit products is because you, the consumer, will gobble them up every opportunity provided. Same reason morons run the country, you elect them. Same reason all our tax dollars are lining the wallets of wall street brokers and bankers, we allow it. Perhaps instead of throwing away money on a device that can do exactly the same thing your last one did, but threw in an extra bell and whistle, you could actually invest it in something worthwhile - like planning for retirement instead of just expecting a handout when you turn 65. OR hell... getting your child a real education.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 9:16pm

    Re:

    Why?

    That is not true in Asia or Europe why it is different in the U.S.?

     

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  21.  
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    BentFranklin, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 9:25pm

    I wouldn't take smart phones away from kids any sooner than I'd lobotomize them. I want to see what they do with them. Evolution always comes from the young. What I'd rather see is our message actually reach these kids and then let them decide, once they have ALL the facts.

     

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  22.  
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    Tony, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 5:28am

    GPL V2

    Nope they are not obliged to release the modifications they have made under the GNU GPL V2. The language in V2 is too broad and not clear enough in a legal sense to clarify that, that is what it means. So while the GPL V2 tries to say, you must make all of your changes available, it really says, you must make the original source code available. And in a legal sense, that only means the original source code without any modifications made to it.

    Hence why GPL V3 was created. To make that term clear so that legal pursuit against infringement is clear cut.
    Read about what TiVo did with GPL code. It's that kind of deal.

    Back to the topic, it's quite easily feasible that a patch and a single kernel parameter could make automatic restore from a partition impossible. Therefore making rooting simple.
    The Linux community is the sole controller of how Linux works. Not HTC and not T-Mobile. Something they and other manufacturers will learn the hard way if they persist to try to add restrictions to GPL licensed code.
    If the restore feature is solely to prevent disaster, then that's OK and it won't hurt them to provide a manual over ride switch. But if it's to restrict user's freedoms, then they are wasting their time. The GNU GPL V2 provides us enough freedom to deal with them, which is only limited by our programming skill.
    Plus there's a whole community of hackers who actually get off on challenges like this.

     

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  23.  
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    David (profile), Oct 7th, 2010 @ 6:15am

    I am surprised

    I am on my second T-Mobile Android. I had the G1 and now the Vibrant. This really surprises me because they have always had a more customer-centric viewpoint than the other carriers. At least they were honest about it, and in that way, allowed you to make the choice of a phone that did not have this "feature" (judgmental air-quotes intentional).

     

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  24.  
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    A Dan (profile), Oct 7th, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re:

    Their phones aren't hugely subsidized like ours, as he said in his post.

     

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  25.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 7th, 2010 @ 8:52am

    Re:

    You haven't actually stated any reason why a kid shouldn't have a cell phone.

    Maybe they have less need, but that's not a reason NOT to have one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    Re:

    It's not a handout, you asshole. The government MAKES me pay into Social Security by automatically deducting it from my paycheck. I would like to be able to collect at least SOME of that back when I turn 65.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 11:17am

    If I buy the phone outright, it is hard to see them having the right to do this without it being trespass. Unless maybe the terms and conditions say that the phone owner agrees to any such trespass. But something like that will probably have to be pretty clear to be binding.

     

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  28.  
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    stya, Jan 4th, 2011 @ 1:25am

    Despite the fact that one of the key selling points of an Android phone is the openness of the phone,

     

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  29.  
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    stya, Jan 4th, 2011 @ 1:32am

    T-Mobile's Latest Android Phone

    T-Mobile has apparently decided that it's way too open. So, the little bug watches if you modify the phone,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    janz, May 15th, 2013 @ 4:22am

    sounds like T-mobile applying for Iphone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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