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.

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Companies: t-mobile

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Comments on “T-Mobile's Latest Android Phone Comes With Free Freedom-Destroying Rootkit”

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dave says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Erik Zeek (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Tony says:

Re: Re: Re: 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.

TheStupidOne says:

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.

ofb2632 (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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..?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

David (profile) says:

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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