One of Android’s selling features is its opening. Some of these are by design, such as the ability to use several predefined app launchers or apps. Others, however, are products of some rather involved in hacking and development, especially rooting and custom ROMs. Unfortunately, it appears that the latter series of superpowers may soon end as Google intensifies its efforts to protect the Android platform, a move that could also make that platform less attractive to a particular class of users.
Rooting on Android, just like jailbreak on iOS, involves exploiting security vulnerabilities to gain root access. Installing custom ROMs, however, often involves unlocking the phone’s bootloader, a process that is actually supported (though often not recommended) by some manufacturers like Sony. The latest Google version of SafetyNet, however, could treat them all in the same way as the signs of a compromised phone.
SafetyNet is a set of Google Play Services APIs that apps can use to verify that a phone has not been compromised in terms of security. This is critical for apps like banking and finance, but also some apps that don̵
According to experienced developers, SafetyNet silently started using hardware attestation to verify the integrity of a device. It will use various factors such as the bootloader unlock status, the presence of root programs, the signed firmware and others to check the status of the phone. In other words, it will become almost impossible to hide a phone’s root status from apps to verify it.
To be clear, it will still be possible to root Android devices or install custom ROMs on them. With the new SafetyNet, however, users will have to choose between superuser features and be able to use some popular and important Android apps. For some users, the fact that they are forced to make a choice is already enough to make them feel like they are using iOS anyway.