Root Detection

Root detection is a security feature to identify whether the restrictions imposed by manufacturers of Android devices have been bypassed.

What Is Root Detection?

Root detection is a security feature to identify whether the restrictions imposed by manufacturers of Android devices have been bypassed. The purpose of Android root detection is to prevent users from using the app on a rooted device, which could potentially compromise the security of the app or the data it contains. Root detection is a useful security measure for mobile apps that handle sensitive data or perform critical functions.

Security Measures for Android Devices

Android devices have several security measures in place to prevent rooting. Common measures include:

  1. Bootloader Locking. Most Android devices have a locked bootloader, which prevents users from installing custom firmware or gaining root access to the device. The bootloader is the first piece of software that runs when a device is powered on, and it controls the booting process. By locking the bootloader, manufacturers prevent users from modifying the device's software.
  2. Verified Boot. Android devices also use a security feature called "Verified Boot," which checks the integrity of the operating system during the booting process. If the operating system has been modified, Verified Boot will prevent the device from booting up, thereby preventing the user from gaining root access.
  3. SELinux. Android devices also use Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux), which is a mandatory access control system that restricts the permissions of apps and processes. SELinux prevents unauthorized access to sensitive data and resources, and it can also prevent rooting attempts.
  4. Knox. Samsung devices use a security feature called Knox, which is a set of hardware and software features that provide enhanced security for the device. Knox can prevent rooting attempts by monitoring the device's software and preventing unauthorized modifications.
  5. Google Play Protect. Android devices also have Google Play Protect, which is a built-in malware scanner that scans apps for potential security threats. Play Protect can detect and remove rooting apps and other malicious software that may attempt to gain root access to the device.

What Is Rooting?

Rooting is a process by which users remove the restrictions imposed by manufactures of Android devices to maintain the security of mobile devices. Jailbreaking is the process for doing the same thing on iOS devices. 

Common Methods To Root an Android Device

Some common methods to root an Android device are listed below. 

  • Using rooting apps. Apps like Magisk, SuperSU, and KingRoot can root many devices using various exploits. Using a rooting app is by far the easiest method, but rooting an Android device does not require a dedicated root app.
  • Custom recovery. Installing custom recoveries like TWRP and ClockworkMod allows execution of root commands.
  • OEM unlocking. Unlocking the bootloader via fastboot on some Android devices enables lower level root access.
  • PC software. Desktop tools like Framaroot and iRoot can root by exploiting Android vulnerabilities via USB.
  • Modifying system image. Manually editing the system image files on an Android device to remove SELinux restrictions can grant root privileges.
  • Exploiting vulnerabilities. Constructing payloads that leverage root-granting bugs and flaws in Android versions.
  • Executing ADB/Fastboot commands. Certain ADB/Fastboot commands can gain root access if properly exploited on some devices.

A rooting package or toolkit will typically include all the rooting files needed to enable root access on Android device. Rooting files encompass everything from exploits to scripts to tools needed to allow permanent or on-demand elevated root access on Android. 

The most user-friendly options to root an Android device are typically root apps and custom recoveries. But other methods like bootloader unlocks, USB exploits, manual edits, and command injection can also root devices in the right circumstances. The exact method depends on the Android OS version and security protections in place.

What Does Rooting Enable?

A rooted device refers to an Android mobile device that has been modified to allow root access to the operating system. Rooting gives users elevated privileges, allowing them to access the device's root filesystem and modify system files or settings that are normally restricted. This can provide users with a greater degree of control over their device and enable them to perform tasks that are not possible on a non-rooted device. Some examples of what a user can do with a rooted Android device include:

  1. Remove pre-installed bloatware. Rooting allows users to remove pre-installed apps that cannot be uninstalled on a non-rooted device.
  2. Customize the device's appearance. Users can modify the look and feel of their device by installing custom themes or icon packs.
  3. Install custom ROMs. Rooting allows users to install custom versions of the Android operating system, which can provide additional features or improvements over the stock ROM.
  4. Install and run root-only apps. Some apps require root access to function properly, and rooting allows users to install and use these apps.
  5. Backup and restore apps and data. Rooting allows users to backup and restore apps and data on their device, which can be useful when switching to a new device or resetting the device to factory settings.
  6. Ad-blocking. Rooting also allows users to block ads system-wide, without having to install a separate ad-blocking app.
  7. Increase performance and battery life. Rooting can allow users to tweak the device's performance settings and reduce unnecessary background processes, which can help improve battery life and performance.
  8. Tweaking hardware. Rooting can give users more control over the hardware on their device, such as overclocking the CPU or changing the color temperature of the screen.

Security Concerns About Rooted Devices

Rooting opens up the an Android device a variety of security risks, including:

  1. Malware. Rooted devices are vulnerable and more susceptible to malware attacks because the root access provides a hacker with more control over the device.
  2. Data theft. Apps also gain root access on rooted devices, which means that a malicious app can be programmed to gather data from every other app and capture user input and network data.
  3. System vulnerabilities. Rooting an Android device can weaken the built-in security features of the operating system, leaving it more vulnerable to attacks and compromise, and exploits by attackers.
  4. Unintended system changes. Rooting an Android device can allow users to modify the system in unintended ways that could cause instability, crashes, and data loss.
  5. No security updates. Rooted devices may not receive security updates, leaving them vulnerable to new and emerging threats.

How Does Root Detection Work?

Various techniques can be used to implement root detection including: 

  1. Checking for the presence of known root files or binaries. This involves checking the Android device's file system for files or binaries that are commonly used in rooting, such as "su" or "busybox".
  2. Checking for the presence of custom ROMs. Rooting often involves installing custom ROMs, which are modified versions of the device's operating system. Root detection can check for the presence of these custom ROMs on the device.
  3. Using third-party libraries or frameworks. There are various third-party libraries or frameworks available that can be used to detect rooting. These libraries often use a combination of different techniques to identify if a device has been rooted.
  4. Runtime analysis. Root detection can also monitor the Android device's runtime environment and look for suspicious behavior or activity that could indicate root. For example, it might check whether the device is running in a sandboxed environment or whether certain system calls have been intercepted.

Root detection should be part of Mobile RASP (Runtime Application Self-Protection) and data protection solutions. 

Root detection is not foolproof and there are ways for users to bypass it. For example, users can install a root detection bypass tweak, modify the app's code (this requires some reverse engineering), or use a root detection bypass tool. It is worth noting that bypassing root detection is not for everyone as it can be a complex and technical process that requires a good understanding of Android system internals and programming.

That said, implementing root detection is an important piece of a multi-layered security strategy for Android apps that handle sensitive data or perform critical functions. Doing so adds another protective layer against exploits by hackers. 

Blue Cedar Provides Root Detection


Blue Cedar Enforce

Blue Cedar Enforce, a component of Blue Cedar Mobile App Security, provides root detection. Being able to detect a rooted device and preventing a mobile app from executing on a rooted Android device is one of many mobile app security features provided by Blue Cedar Mobile App Security, which also includes Blue Cedar Connect


Blue Cedar Enhance

Blue Cedar also provides an easy way to incorporate mobile app security, including root detection, into a mobile app. That is via Blue Cedar Enhance, Blue Cedar’s no-code integration service that adds new functionality to mobile apps without requiring a single line of code to be written. Blue Cedar Enhance integrates mobile app security into iOS and Android mobile app binaries, regardless of the libraries and frameworks that underpin these app binaries. 

The Blue Cedar Platform

Blue Cedar Mobile App Security and Blue Cedar Enhance are delivered by the Blue Cedar Platform, a CI/CD friendly SaaS solution that also provides deployment services, such as app import and code signing, to streamline delivery of secured mobile apps.