Google Goes Thermonuclear On Thieves With Methodical Remote Wipe Option For Stolen Androids

Google has offered Device Protection for Android devices for quite some time. It provides Android users with some safeguards in case your device is unfortunately lost or stolen. Google describes Device Protection, stating:

You can set up your device to prevent other people from using it if it gets reset to factory settings without your permission. For example, if your device is lost, stolen, or wiped after you've set it up to prevent others from using it, then only someone with your Google Account or screen lock information could use your device.

However, a new update recently hit the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) that will make restoring and using a stolen device even tougher for criminals. Google has presented what could clearly be called a “Nuclear Option” by allowing the Android operating system to securely erase every single partition on the device when invoked by a device’s rightful owner. Recovery partition, boot partition, bootloader — all would be wiped off the face of the earth with zeroes.

brick

Which partitions are erased would be left up to each individual manufacturer, but according to Android Police, even external partitions (i.e. a microSD card) can be included with the “bricking” command. The feature, which has been merged into the AOSP, was first noticed on Friday and contains the following description:

When recovery starts with --brick, it tries to brick the device by securely wiping all the partitions as listed in /etc/recovery.brick.

This is designed to support bricking lost devices.

It is unknown if such a powerful and incredibly dangerous tool will be handed down to regular consumers. Too much could go wrong with such a bricking tool. What if someone were to hack into your account and start remote wiping your devices? If anything, it would give users even more of a reason to enable two-factor authentication.

However, Android Police believes that this functionality will likely first be enabled for enterprise applications like Android for Work through the use of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform.


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