I recently lost my android phone, and regretted not having a remote wipe app installed. However, I do not trust 3rd party compiled apps with such power (too many weak links).
Does anyone know of an existing open source app to do a remote wipe?
For non-rooted phones.
Up until 2.1 it is not possible. Regular apps do not have the permission to perform full wipes or factory restores. I believe there are apps that erase your call/sms records and your contacts.
Starting with 2.2, it seems Google is granting limited root powers to apps that use Device Administration. It is supposedly a way for enterprises to policy their employee's phones, and requires an extra confirmation by the owner. But I believe it could be used by anyone writing an app. In fact, the code for wiping seems so simple that I think you could write an open-source app yourself if you have some programming background. ;-)
For rooted phones.
There are remote wipe apps, but I don't believe any of them is open source (that I've heard of).
Remote Wipe for root users is possibly the simplest one, and it's in the market, but I've never tried it myself. This app is no longer on the market.
One open-source remote security app is Prey, although I don't think it does remote wipe.
Without question the security best app that also does remote wiping is Cerberus. I reviewed Cerberus and a bunch of other security apps some little while ago, and haven't seen anything to change my opinion yet.
Short answer as to why Cerberus is better: it is controllable both by SMS and by a web dashboard, can be integrated into the kernel so that a reset doesn't wipe it, and has a boatload of well implemented features. Well worth the $5 it costs.
@nicolas-raoul asked me to post my thoughts about the open source app Prey, so here they are my review:
Some redditors asked about Prey as a phone security app. I just tried it out, and it’s missing most features I would consider important. The most vital was that while you can trigger it via a text message, I didn’t see any way to trigger a “report” from the website. In fact, you have to subscribe to the Pro version at US$5.oo/month in order to be able to request the geolocation whenever you want it as opposed to whenever the Prey app runs at some unspecified interval, which pretty much kills the utility of the app as an anti-theft utility.
The only features I could find were obtaining the current location (but no real time tracking, and it doesn’t specify whether it gets the info from GPS or by cell tower triangulation so it may not resolve very far), getting phone network info, triggering an audio alarm, triggering a message box alert, and locking the phone. While it’s great that it’s open source and that it supports so many mobile computing platforms and so might be good for protecting laptops or tablets, I wouldn’t recommend it as a phone anti-theft device.
If the need for an open source app is purely down to your lack of trust in opaque, pre-compiled apps, then there are remote wipe apps that you don't need to keep permanently installed on your phone, but you can just push-install from the Market when needed. This way you would only need to have the app installed on the phone for seconds before it's wiped.
Some options for that are in this previous question Is there any way to erase personal information from my phone that has already been stolen?