Does unlocking bootloader delete everything

Android geeks often unlock their bootloaders to root their tools and install custom ROMs. But there’s a reason gadgets come with locked bootloaders – unlocking your bootloader creates protection threats.

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We’re not advising versus rooting and also utilizing tradition ROMs if that’s really what you want to perform, but you have to be mindful of the risks. For the exact same factor Android doesn’t come rooted, it doesn’t come unlocked – through even more power comes more dangers.


Why Android Bootloaders Come Locked

Android devices come through locked bootloaders for a factor. It’s not just that carriers and also manufacturers desire to own your hardware and proccasion you from installing custom ROMS on it – although they do – tbelow are excellent defense reasons. Even Google’s Nexus line of gadgets, intfinished as developer tools, have actually locked bootloaders.

A device via a locked bootloader will only boot the operating mechanism presently on it. You can’t install a custom operating device – the bootloader will certainly refusage to fill it.

If your device’s bootloader is unlocked, you will certainly watch an unlocked padlock icon on the screen during the begin of the boot procedure.

Android Wipes Itself When You Unlock Your Bootloader

If you have actually a Nexus gadget prefer a Nexus 4 or Nexus 7, there’s a quick, main method to unlock your bootloader. As part of this process, Android wipes all data on your device. You obtain a machine with an unlocked bootloader, but one that has actually namong your information on it. You deserve to then install a practice ROM.

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This is obnoxious to human being that simply desire to root their gadget without going with a lengthy setup process, however it’s a vital security precaution. Your PIN or password protects access to your Android tool, and unlocking the bootloader opens holes that enable civilization via physical access to your device to bypass your PIN or password.

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Bypassing Your PIN or Password

If your Android phone has a standard locked bootloader when a thief gets their hands on it, they won’t be able to accessibility the device’s data without knowing its PIN or password. (Of course, an extremely established thief might crack open up the phone and rerelocate the storage to read it in an additional gadget.)

If your Android phone or tablet’s bootloader is unlocked once a thief gets their hands on it, they might reboot your device into its bootloader and also boot your practice recoextremely atmosphere (or flash a practice recoexceptionally and then boot that). From the recoincredibly mode, they can use the adb command to accessibility all the information on your tool. This bypasses any type of PIN or password offered to secure your device

If you’re unlocking your device and also want to protect versus this, you can select to allow Android’s encryption function. This would encertain your information is stored in an encrypted create, so human being wouldn’t be able to accessibility your information without your encryption passphrase. However, even encryption can’t protect your information perfectly.

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Bypassing Encryption With a Freezer

If your Android phone or tablet is running as soon as a thief gets their hands on it, they might theoretically put the phone in the freezer for an hour prior to flashing a new operating system on it. We spanned this once we explained exactly how freezers and cold temperatures can bypass encryption – fundamentally, the encryption vital stays in your device’s RAM for a lot longer if the RAM is cooled, and also it deserve to be extracted before it disappears.

In this case, an strike was lugged out against a Galaxy Nexus that was placed in the freezer and researchers were able to recover its encryption essential. This strike was only successful because the Galaxy Nexus in question had an unlocked bootloader, so the researchers could flash an operating mechanism onto it and also usage the brand-new OS to dump the contents of the device’s RAM. If the Galaxy Nexus had a locked boot loader, this strike would not have been possible. It could theoretically still be feasible to crack open the phone, remove its RAM, and also read it in another tool, however that becomes much more complicated.

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Of course, you more than likely don’t should problem around this too much. If you’re an Android geek installing tradition ROMs and also rooting your tool for your very own usage, you most likely aren’t going to be the targain of a determined and professional thief who desires to access the data on your device. If your gadget is stolen, it’s probably by someone that just wants to wipe the gadget and sell it.

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However, Android’s boot loader comes locked for a reason. With Android phones being used by businesses and also governments, a locked boot loader provides added security defense against corpoprice espionage and also other governments’ spies must a phone become stolen or shed.

Image Credit: Johan Larsboy on Flickr


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Chris HoffmanChris Hoffmale is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s created about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for 2 years. Chris has actually written for The New York Times, been interviewed as an innovation skilled on TV stations prefer Miami"s NBC 6, and had actually his work-related covered by news outallows prefer the BBC. Because 2011, Chris has actually created over 2,000 posts that have been read practically one billion times---and that"s simply below at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »