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In short:

Is there a way to disable remote wipe for Android Phones (specifically in Froyo)?

Background:

I recently upgraded my G1 to a G2, and was about to set up my company e-mail account. But the problem is, it notified me I'd have to allow the company to set my security settings. Looking into it, Froyo (Android 2.2) added support for things like remote wipe and user access controls from the admin. I understand this is a great move, but we've had problems in the past with our IT team accidentally sending these messages to the wrong phones, and the last thing I want is an accidental bricking while I'm at a conference.

Is there a way to connect to ActiveSync so I can still get push notifications of work email, but not allow remote wipe messages to wipe my phone?

I'm fine with them setting security policy like requiring a PIN or something, but I don't want a remote wipe unless it's sent by me from a security app that I installed at will.

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Rather than updating the post I'll comment here: I've rooted my phone and I'm going to see if there's any way to modify it from here. If I do, I'll post the answer. –  NateDSaint Dec 21 '10 at 14:55
    
I have a similar issue - I don't want to connect my personal Google Nexus S phone (running Android 2.3) to my work email if it grants them ability to wipe it. Can this be changed on the server side - i.e. configure exchange to no longer require this permission? –  Anthony Jan 14 '11 at 16:52
    
From what I understand (anyone correct me if I'm wrong), the way the protocol works at the moment is that Froyo and newer now just accept those special "meta" emails if they're sent. From the Exchange server configuration, your IT department may never send them, and may have it configured so they can't, but that doesn't stop them from doing it in the future. –  NateDSaint Jan 17 '11 at 20:40
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This seems more like a social issue rather than security issue. If your IT admin are trigger-happy people who remotely wipes someone else's phone for no reason whatsoever, then he is not qualified to be an admin. The fact that he had accidentally sent one previously should be a lesson for him, and it's unlikely to happen the second time (well, unless he is truly trigger happy). –  Lie Ryan Mar 9 '11 at 17:16
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@lieryan Honestly it's a question of personal preference. It's my personal phone, not a company phone, so I don't want my company being able to wipe it ever. That being said, I might end up doing this : taranfx.com/vmware-virtualization-on-android Because of the fact I could potentially just have an entire OS dedicated to work, I wouldn't mind setting up a fully functional exchange setup there. But I don't like the idea that just to get company mail I have to subject myself to frankly draconian security policies. –  NateDSaint Mar 10 '11 at 14:22

5 Answers 5

I had the same issue with a company I'm working with now. I'm a consultant, and my current client has given me a corporate email address, which I synched to my phone so I'm able to view and respond to messages when I'm not at the client site. They have a script that runs when your contract expires to send the remote wipe command. However, I've been extended several times, and their system treats extensions as a brand new contract, thus wiping my phone every time.

Touchdown worked like a charm... it keeps your data completely seperate from the rest of your phone. That's really the only negative, as you can't view all of your appointments (personal and corporate) on one central calendar. This applies BOTH to the pin code AND to the remote wipe command... Since I've been extended several times, they've sent the wipe command each time and touchdown is simply wiped, not the rest of the phone. Best 20 bucks I've ever spent.

On a social note though I do agree since this is my personal phone, they shouldn't be able to wipe ALL of my data unless the command is coming from me. I think this is a huge miss within the native email client.

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I can't make up my mind about it. I think the big thing would be that your company should provide IMAP access for mail. It may not be as secure or provide quite as quick/easy integration with calendars, but it removes the need for you to brick your phone over a bad e-mail. –  NateDSaint Aug 31 '11 at 21:51

I believe the Remote Wipe feature is now required for ActiveSync. If you setup the account as a POP or IMAP account you won't have the remote wipe "threat" but the functionality is of course limited.

Maybe there is, or should be, a way to do it with a rooted device.

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From what people have told me, there's a way to use Touchdown which allows you to set permissions on syncing, but what I'm trying to figure out is if there's a mechanism by which you can disable this with your ActiveSync. If nothing else, finding a way to block the e-mail that causes the wipe with internal filtering. But I imagine most of that is bypassed intentionally by the system. Anyway, +1 for response, thanks. –  NateDSaint Dec 15 '10 at 17:05

I too feel the same way that a remote wipe of the whole phone is way too much power to be handed over, especially in the case of our personal phones. Unfortunately I don't think there is anything you can do about the built-in Email app.

I have a Nexus S, and I decided to try TouchDown because it does not allow a remote Exchange administrator to wipe the phone, but rather only wipe the data associated with the Exchange account (i.e., your work emails and appointments). (There is a box you can check for "enable wipe SD card" if you really want to grant them this power. There is also a feature where you can create a one-time code to self-destruct your own phone with an email, but neither of these things interest me.)

For Exchange email and calendar appointments, I found that touchdown was able to connect via "ActiveSync" without too much trouble, and it supports push email. The interface is not as smooth or simple (or good-looking) as the built-in app, but it seems like a small price to pay to know that my phone won't be wiped all of the sudden for any number of bad reasons.

Also the 30-day trial is fully functional (except you can't change email sig, which mentions the app of course), and for $20 you can upgrade to the normal version (which lets you change the email sig).

Hope this helps!

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this is great news! Touchdown was around back when I had my G1 but I heard a lot of bad stuff about it, I assumed it was disappear, but it looks like it's getting a lot more traction, so I'll look into it. Thanks! –  NateDSaint Jun 21 '11 at 14:04
    
Yeah I've had good success with it so far, and no issues. I like the fact that you can see unread emails + upcoming calendar events on one screen too. I tried a ton of "Exchange-compatible" Android email apps before settling on this one. The other ones, such as K9, are good clients, but just don't support active sync. With Touchdown you can actually search the exchange address book which is awesome. –  orange80 Jun 21 '11 at 22:13

i've found two different strategies work for this

  1. root the phone and install cyanogenmod. this has a setting under Tablet Enhancements that allows you to disable the lock screen, this negating the PIN code entry
  2. install an email app from the market that is compatible with exchange, such as Moxier Mail. this still respects the security/PIN code stuff for Exchange, but only when launching that app, not unlocking the phone.
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I'm not worried about the pin code entry, I'm worried about the ability for the sysadmin to send a remote wipe command (special type of meta e-mai) that will basically brick the phone. –  NateDSaint Jun 21 '11 at 14:03

There is a lockpick app that will enter a pin automatically every time you turn on the phone's screen to get around being required to enter a pin. Someone was working on modifying the email files to accept the remote admin input and send the success replies while not actually performing an action. That would remove the need to use a pin and prevent remote wipe, but I haven't seen that modded email come out into the light.

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Thanks for the heads up. I'm mostly worried about the remote wipe feature, which isn't about a pin lock wiping your phone but a function wherein the admin can send a special meta-email to your inbox which causes the phone to be wiped. –  NateDSaint Jun 23 '11 at 14:40

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