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The risks of rooting your Android phone

A man checks his Android smartphone.

September 21, 2022

You’ve got your smartphone. It’s new, shiny and neat. You can go online from it while you’re out and about and download cool apps to keep you company whenever you get bored.

But can you download any app you want? What about custom themes? And did you ever feel like altering or replacing system applications and settings on your phone because they’re not so user friendly?

Well, the thing is you can’t do whatever you want with your smartphone. For security reasons, phone manufacturers and mobile network operators impose software limitations. However, these limitations can be overruled by rooting your Android phone, although it is not advisable. Especially if you don’t have trusted security software installed, to protect you from mobile malware.

Some people might talk about the freedom rooting your phone gives you, without necessarily stressing the risks you could face by doing so.

Here’s a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of this process.

What is rooting?

Rooting is a process that allows you to attain root access to the Android operating system code (the equivalent term for Apple devices is jailbreaking). It gives you privileges to modify the software code on the device or install other software that the manufacturer wouldn’t normally allow you to.

And for good mobile-security reasons: They don’t want users to make modifications to the phones that could result in accidents beyond repair; it is easier for them to offer support if they allow users to only use the same unmodified version of the software.

But tech-savvy users have developed rooting methods, which vary depending on device. They are available on the web, and some Android users are resorting to them because of the powerful perks they provide, such as:  

  • Full customization for just about every theme/graphic. 
  • Download of any app, regardless of the app store they’re posted on.
  • Extended battery life and added performance.
  • Updates to the latest version of Android if your device is outdated and no longer updated by the manufacturer.

But if you do it improperly, it can create problems. And even done properly, if your phone doesn’t have proper antivirus protection for Android, rooting leaves your device open to all sorts of malware.

With great power comes great responsibility

Now, say all these advantages have convinced you to root your Android device. But if you do, you might risk your own mobile security. Here’s why: 

  • You can turn your smartphone into a brick. Not literally, but if you goof up the rooting process, meaning the code modifications, your phone software can get so damaged that your phone will basically be as useless as a brick.  
  • Your phone warranty turns void. It’s legal to root your phone; however, if you do it, your device goes straight out of warranty. Say you root your phone and sometime after that, you experience a phone malfunction — hardware or software related. Because of the Android rooting, the warranty is no longer valid, and the manufacturer will not cover the damages. 
  • Malware can breach your mobile security. Gaining root access also entails circumventing the security restrictions put in place by the Android operating system. Which means worms, viruses, spyware, and Trojans can infect the rooted Android software if it’s not protected by effective mobile antivirus for Android. There are several ways these types of malware get on your phone: drive-by downloads, malicious links, infected apps you download from not-so-reputable app stores. 

Mobile security advice

  1. If you still want to root your device, make sure you research the process very well, as it differs depending on the smartphone type and brand. You might ask for expert advice on dedicated forums, or better yet, enlist the help of a tech-savvy person to root it for you.
  2. Install proper antivirus protection for your Android phone, even before rooting the device, to help fend off malware infections. 
  3. Here’s some good news: Say you do resort to rooting your device. If for some reason you change your mind about it, you can always un-root it. In this case too, it’s better you ask for expert help.

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