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I have begun doing Android development a few months ago and it still blows my mind why an end-user that buys an Android machine cannot is is not allowed to have full access to it (aka root acccess), except through unsupported and dangerous hacks that grant root permission. For example, I want to send raw wifi packets for my current development idea, but the SDK doesn't allow this (for "security" resons?). An Android phone is a Linux machine after all, so what is going on?! My question is about the way Android is designed and distributed. I've read that people seem to say there is a malware risk, but isn't the risk just as high on a normal PC?

marked as duplicate by bmdixon, Firelord, eldarerathis Jan 17 '16 at 18:09

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    This question lacks specificity, to which a clear, discernible answer can be made. It invokes opinion and speculative answers to support the programming, design, and distribution decisions of others. It is too broad, with too many supportable aspects to make an full, allowable fair, and impartial selection to close the question. – wbogacz Jan 17 '16 at 16:49
  • Shipping a phone with su binary or a method allowing a user to switch to root user would be disastrous to device users' private data. source.android.com/security Android is a privileged OS and I don't think people would realize (even in strong red colored warning), if su binary comes with production devices, that granting an app superuser privilege is akin to granting unrestricted access to every bit of data in the phone/. – Firelord Jan 17 '16 at 18:02
  • My point is about Android itself and the way it is designed. Applications on my PC face the same problems. If shipping a phone with the su binary would cause such problems, then why does shipping Windows or Linux with root access not cause such huge problems? – Æðelstan Jan 17 '16 at 18:14
  • It does cause huge problems in PC and that is why Antivirus business flourishes so much and so as the articles and posts in forums that explain how to reinstall Windows when C: is formatted by user or it doesn't boot or work well because user didn't understand what they were doing. As for Linux, almost every Linux user is supposed to or gets to know command-line and a lot of good articles and forum users warns not to use root privilege or root account for just anything so those users don't end up in trap easily. It appears that you've not done any deep searching on the subject you asked. – Firelord Jan 17 '16 at 19:34
  • What? I just said the exact same thing... – Æðelstan Jan 17 '16 at 21:22
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Let me take this in hand part by part.

Why an end-user that buys an Android machine cannot is is not allowed to have full access to it (aka root acccess), except through unsupported and dangerous hacks that grant root permission.

Plenty of reasons:

  • That way, the manufacturer makes sure that you can not harm your phone's software in a way that is beyond saving.

  • Lots of bloatware you see on your phone are there for commercial purposes. If a manufacturer literally lets you take down the app they get paid to place there, they won't get paid for it again.

  • Even most people who intentionally root their phone don't know what they are doing, and what the root user is capable of. Giving that kind of a permission to an average user is dangerous.

  • Manufacturers want to restrict the power of your phone so that they can sell you a better phone in the future.

List goes on.

An Android phone is a Linux machine after all, so what is going on?!

Linux also has the same security methods. Except that root user is available to user. However, we have to accept that a smart phone and a computer are for two different purposes, even though they are the same fundamentally.

I've read that people seem to say there is a malware risk, but isn't the risk just as high on a normal PC?

No, just no. A normal PC is so much more open to malware attacks. A rooted malware can literally hard-brick your phone for good. Even though there are some exploits malwares can take advantage of and gain root, new security features like SELinux makes it harder for them. So comparing a PC and Android based on means of security is a flawed way of thinking.

  • Interesting points. However the fact the a smartphone and a computer serve two different purposes doesn't change the fact that it's strange not to have control over something that is yours. In the case of smaller devices such as a processor in my car, you simply wouldn't know how to use it. But in this case and in the case of a PC I beg to differ. I guess it's a matter of opinion. As far as people rooting their phone without knowing what they do I completely agree, however if the phones were rooted from the get-go it would be much less of a risk as it can be properly controlled I'd think. – Æðelstan Jan 17 '16 at 17:53
  • @Æðelstan Just because it is yours, doesn't mean they have to give you full control over it. They sell it to you as is, and you agree to buy the same way. Maybe giving official support for rooting would be much more user friendly. However, there are other reasons as I listed above that prevents manufacturers from doing that. One can mess up with the CPU frequencies and even start a fire from that. Probable? Not really. But possible? Yup. I personally witnessed it. – SarpSTA Jan 17 '16 at 18:45
  • Yes, I understand these other reasons are very real (although I don't agree with them). I just wish there will be a platform that really lets you take advantage of it one day :D – Æðelstan Jan 17 '16 at 19:22
  • @Æðelstan the bottom line is: we (the maker) think that you (user) are too stupid to use your phones so we must protect you from yourself so that you won't get hurt - I hate this protectionism. Microsoft is doing the same in Windows 10 where you cannot disable automatic updates and reboots if you are normal user and don't have the enterprise version. – metalnoise Aug 31 '16 at 18:45
  • @metalnoise That is really the most inaccurate description I have ever seen. Having safety precautions means they value you, not consider you to be an idiot. The same way there are bars next to a cliff, safety door in an elevator, airbags that can't be turned off in a car, we have user privilege restrictions in Android. I don't think that is unnecessary. People brick their phone deleting system stuff even though they are warned repeatedly during the rooting process. So no, caring about you doesn't mean they think you are stupid. Thinking that way is so unreasonable. – SarpSTA Aug 31 '16 at 18:49
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The majority of customer has no interest in root access and the corresponding capabilizies and dangers - they want to use their phone and that's it.

Did you ever try to 'root' the processor in your car? (It's basically Linux too) Do you think cars should come rooted? Same point, but even stronger.

  • I seriously doubt that the processor in my car has similar hardware with my computer... – Æðelstan Jan 17 '16 at 17:49
  • Yes, I think I should have full access to whatever I buy if I desire that. They can sell the stuff locked but they should provide a key to unlock it for someone who needs or wants this. – metalnoise Aug 31 '16 at 18:47

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