I recently bought a Pixel 2 XL "open box" off eBay. The device appears slightly used, and a couple of days after registering with my Google account, I received security notifications of attempted logins in a far-away country. For this reason I suspect that the phone may have some kind of spyware or other unwanted software in it, that I want to promptly get rid of.

My options as far as a I can tell are:

  • Hard factory reset: my understanding is that this just deletes user data, apps and configuration, so if the malware is deeply embedded in the system files, this method may not solve the issue.
  • Custom image flash: this would be the most reliable method but is a little cumbersome and may brick the phone if done improperly. I've never attempted it myself and I'm a little nervous about it.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) image flash: which is a relatively new method, is supposed to be more reliable that the previous method with the same result. My fear is that since this is a more high level procedure, the process could be hijacked by whatever malware I have and corrupt the new image.

Is my previous assessment correct? Am I missing something? what is the most reliable way to reset the software in my Pixel device in order to remove malware?

  • 2
    Bricking a Pixel device by flashing a factory ROM by Google is pretty hard. Anyway I would flash an original ROM: developers.google.com/android/images#taimen – Robert Sep 24 '19 at 11:21
  • I have not come across Android malwares embedded outside of system, kernel and data partition, so flashing stock ROM or a custom ROM should get rid of the problem. As Robert mentioned, flashing a factory ROM would unlikely brick the device. You can try the flashing and see if the symptoms again show up. This is firing in the dark though because we have not investigated how the device is getting compromised, so that proper course of action be taken. – Firelord Sep 24 '19 at 16:11
  • Thank you both for the words of encouragement. I will try my luck with flashing the latest stock ROM. – A. Arredondo Sep 24 '19 at 19:44

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