Chainfire: Next Android version could bring new troubles for root apps

May 19, 2014

superuser

Back in January, Chainfire warned us that the next version of Android could potentially bring changes that could break some of our favorite root apps, due to the fact that Android will reportedly no longer allow the extraction of files to directories located on the /data partition.

The idea isn’t to prevent the use of rooted apps necessarily, but instead is reportedly aimed at making Android more secure. While an annoyance, at the time Chainfire also made several suggestions on how apps could be modified to get around some of these potential hurdles. Workarounds included extracting the code and running it from RAM or rootfs, piping commands directly to SU and the list goes on.

The idea isn't to prevent the use of rooted apps necessarily, but instead is reportedly aimed at making Android more secure

It’s only a matter of time before another Android update arrives (4.4.3, 4.5 or whatever really), so Chainfire took to Google+ today to review the situation to see where we are at. As it turns out, there’s actually a few more changes heading our way then originally believed — all of which could make rooting even more difficult.

In addition to the above-mentioned change, reviewing AOSP also turned up changes to SELinux that make it much more secure and makes context switching a bit more complicated. Basically, the old ways of executing processes as a root user will no longer work, though Chainfire has updated his root guide to show developers additional methods for getting around this.

Furthermore, Chainfire says that the Android runtime is now the default setting in AOSP, though it remains unseen if this will carry over to production firmwares. While the presence of ART is largely a good thing and means a faster Android experience, it also could mean that when apps running ART try to call Java-based code like “am” and “pm” in a different context, the combination of “SELinux restrictions and the immaturity of ART” could cause crashes that take down the entire system. Of course, even if ART is default, those who use root apps can always switch back to Dalvik under the ART-related problems are fully addressed.

Of lesser issue for most root apps these days, Chainfire also says that PIE (Position-Independent Executable) is now a requirement on non-statically build executables.

Harder, but not impossible

All of these changes combined will make rooting a bit more difficult and will require a great deal of existing rooted apps to be updated, but it’s far from the end of rooting as we know it. Ultimately the changes being made by Google might seem frustrating, but it’s important to remember Google’s goal with the changes is to shake its reputation of being less secure than other OSes and isn’t necessarily an indication that Google is trying to muck up the Android community and rooting scene.

Rooting will still continue on strong, as the Android community has proven that no obstacle is too big if you have the willpower to overcome it. On that note, Chainfire has also revealed that the latest version of SuperSU (which supports newest AOSP builds) is ready to go, even if it’s not yet been formally released.

It’s also important to remember that even if these changes are being made to AOSP, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll show up in final versions of Android anytime soon — though we wouldn’t be too surprised if they do. What do you think of this changes: positive for the direction of Android or cause for concern?

Comments

  • Jayfeather787

    It seems this is happening more and more. Sigh.

  • DrewHamm

    Of course, even if ART is default, those who use root apps can always switch back to Dalvik under the ART-related problems are fully addressed.

    Instead of “under the ART-related problems are fully addressed” it should be until they are addressed. Just pointing out a small typo.

    • David Onter

      Yes, but ART will be state of the art (*badum-tss*) with the new Android version and you cannot simply stop updating. It will also probably be faster than Dalvik when it’s finished ;)

  • namesib

    I dread to see what Android will be in the next few years. Both Google and Samsung are locking it down in the name of security. :/

  • Otto Andersson

    It’s always in the name of protecting the users. I’m outspoken here, but stock android is garbage. The only reason I get stock is to more easily customize if to be more user friendly to real people.

    If Google tries to lock down even more (I already think their is too much restriction), I won’t see any reason to keep using Android.

    • whateverdude3450

      i agree the s4 Google edition is nowhere near as good as the Samsung version , i tried both and have gone back to Samsung’s 4.3 version with a simply a new launcher on , the camera on stock android is crap compared to Samsung’s and there are lots of other improvements on the Samsung version.

      • Otto Andersson

        Thank you! I’m glad someone else sees it. I am using cyanogenmod on my s4, but there are some features that I really miss from TouchWiz that I’m having trouble replicating even if they are only software issues. Are there any camera apps that replicate Samsung?

        • Andrew T Roach

          Camera apps tweaked by OEMs are alway better than apps off Play.

          • Otto Andersson

            I’m novice, link a brother up!

    • WallBreaker

      I used every flagship from 2013 for a month the Nexus 5 is currently my daily driver, I have used and flashed countless roms but now I find myself back using stock android with the google now launcher. the experience is the most pleasing compared to any Skin period. Sure its missing some things that samsung may offer but I care more about overall use and performance than some feature I may use only a few times a month.

      • Otto Andersson

        Google now Launcher is much cleaner, I’ll give you that. I still personally prefer more customization, especially since GN isn’t very useful in my country.

    • WallBreaker

      Man why does everyone always freak out like a little girl over these articles, most these articles by these tech sites are always made to sound worst then they actually are, its called click bait they want you to read the story.

      The Company Google purchased are the same people that did Knox for Samsung. When I had a galaxy S4 Knox made it a little more difficult to root, but not by much. Android will still be open and rootable just take a chill pill.

      • Otto Andersson

        While you are right about your buzzword “click bait”, it’s a known fact that companies feed news stories to gauge customer perception of a particular topic. They have even been known to hijack message boards to do spin control.

        So users should satisfy their unhappiness to any such rumors or fed news stories to let companies know their dissatisfaction. Think of it like an unofficial survey in which companies don’t need to reveal their true intentions to its userbase of which they take advantage.

  • whateverdude3450

    one of the reason i prefer android is because it is easy to root and there is no way i would want a phone that i could not root.

    • Brandon Miranda

      Whateverdude… iOS is easily jailbreakable… Minus 7.1 and up.

      • gommer strike

        weeeeeell we kinda want to be able to jb 7.1+…we don’t really want to be stuck on the lower versions if possible.

        • Andrew T Roach

          7.1.1 is already jailbroken.

        • Brandon Miranda

          Indeed. As far as I know, the iPhone 4 is the only one capable of an even semi-untethered jailbreak.

    • WallBreaker

      The Company Google purchased are the same people that did Knox for Samsung. When I had a galaxy S4 Knox made it a little more difficult to root, but not by much. Android will still be open and rootable just take a chill pill

  • hoggleboggle

    Whilst I applaud Google’s steps to make android a more secure environment I wish they would also treat their users like adults and let them decide to allow things like root access or writing to the external sd card if they choose to do so. If I wanted to be treated like a child or imbecile I would buy an ios device

    • whateverdude3450

      hate to say it but i can see android becoming more and more like ios with Google taking more and more control away from users , maybe it will appeal more to the gormless masses that way?

      • Arth

        It appeals big company. Locked-down devices are preferable for enterprise and entertainment business. That’s why TPM (secure platform) exist.
        For example, if Sony hadn’t locked down their PS3, big companies would refuse develop games on it.

    • Preben Nielsen

      Allowing you to easily do things like that would keep Android out of the business segment, unfortunately. Added security is probably a must.

      • hoggleboggle

        That hasn’t stopped windows. If a business is paranoid enough to want to impose such restrictions they could simply use something like knox or just install a security certificate that would lock out those features.

        • anonguy

          Clearly have no clue about windows in an enterprise setting.

        • WallBreaker

          Um guess what? The company google Purchased are the same people behind Knox. Do your homework

          If you ask me everyone on here is overreacting.

    • Brandon Miranda

      Good sir, I own a jailbroken iOS device and even more non-jailbroken and I am certainly not treated like an imbecile. Albeit, I do like my Nexus 7 just a bit more… Or a lot more…

  • Ashley Johnson

    Everything is changing very fast and its getting difficult to adjust in that.

  • adamhs

    Google needs to make 2 versions of their OS. One for people who want root and know what they’re doing. And then a version for everyone else that’s locked down and secure.

  • WallBreaker

    EVERYONE CALM DOWN!!!…

    People this is nothing to worry about. The Company Google purchased are the same people that did Knox for Samsung. When I had a galaxy S4 Knox made it a little more difficult to root, but not by much. Android will still be open and rootable just take a chill pill

  • Brandon Miranda

    Hey I have a question. Kitkat 4.4.4has been released for my Nexus. And rooted with towelroot and so if I unroot with SuperSU can I update to 4.4.4 and reroot successfully? Please respond I really need to know.