Android rooting

Android rooting is the process of allowing users of smartphones, tablets, and other devices running the Android mobile operating system to attain privileged control (known as "root access") within Android's subsystem.

Rooting is often performed with the goal of overcoming limitations that carriers and hardware manufacturers put on some devices, resulting in the ability to alter or replace system applications and settings, run specialized apps that require administrator-level permissions, or perform other operations that are otherwise inaccessible to a normal Android user. On Android, rooting can also facilitate the complete removal and replacement of the device's operating system, usually with a more recent release of its current operating system.



As Android derives from the Linux kernel, rooting an Android device is similar to accessing administrative permissions on Linux or any other Unix-like operating system such as FreeBSD or OS X.

Description

Rooting lets all user-installed applications run privileged commands typically unavailable to the devices in the stock configuration. Rooting is required for more advanced and potentially dangerous operations including modifying or deleting system files, removing carrier- or manufacturer-installed applications, and low-level access to the hardware itself (rebooting, controlling status lights, or recalibrating touch inputs.) A typical rooting installation also installs the Superuser application, which supervises applications that are granted root or superuser rights. A secondary operation, unlocking the device's bootloader verification, is required to remove or replace the installed operating system. In contrast to iOS jailbreaking, rooting is not needed to run applications distributed outside of the Google Play Store, sometimes called sideloading. The Android OS supports this feature natively in two ways: through the "Unknown sources" option in the Settings menu and through the Android Debug Bridge. However some carriers, like AT&T, prevent the installation of applications not on the Store in firmware, although several devices (including the Samsung Infuse 4G) are not subject to this rule, and AT&T has since lifted the restriction on several older devices. As of 2012 the Amazon Kindle Fire defaults to the Amazon Appstore instead of Google Play, though like most other Android devices, Kindle Fire allows sideloading of applications from unknown sources, and the "easy installer" application on the Amazon Appstore makes this easy. Other vendors of Android devices may look to other sources in the future. Access to alternate apps may require rooting but rooting is not always necessary. Rooting an Android phone lets the owner modify or delete the system files, which in turn lets them perform various tweaks and use apps that require root access.


Process

The process of rooting varies widely by device, but usually includes exploiting a security bug(s) in the firmware (i.e. in Android) of the device, and then copying the su binary to a location in the current process's PATH (e.g. /system/xbin/su) and granting it executable permissions with the chmod command. A supervisor application like SuperUser or SuperSU can regulate and log elevated permission requests from other applications. Many guides, tutorials, and automatic processes exist for popular Android devices facilitating a fast and easy rooting process.

For example, shortly after the HTC Dream (HTC G1)was released, it was quickly discovered that anything typed using the keyboard was being interpreted as a command in a privileged (root) shell. Although Google quickly released a patch to fix this, a signed image of the old firmware leaked, which gave users the ability to downgrade and use the original exploit to gain root access. Once an exploit is discovered, a custom recovery image that skips the digital signature check of a firmware update package can be flashed. In turn, using the custom recovery, a modified firmware update can be installed that typically includes the utilities (for example the Superuser app) needed to run apps as root.

The Google-branded Android phones, the Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 as well as their tablet counterparts, the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, can be boot-loader unlocked by simply connecting the device to a computer while in boot-loader mode and running the Fastboot program with the command "fastboot oem unlock". After accepting a warning, the boot-loader is unlocked, so a new system image can be written directly to flash without the need for an exploit.

In 2011, Motorola, LG Electronics and HTC added security features to their devices at the hardware level in an attempt to prevent users from rooting retail Android devices.[citation needed] For instance, the Motorola Droid X has a security boot-loader that puts the phone in "recovery mode" if a user loads unsigned firmware onto the device, and the Samsung Galaxy S II displays a yellow triangle indicator if the device firmware has been modified.

Android rooting from Wikipedia