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Droid X Self-Destructs If You Try To Mod 757

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-that's-evil dept.
An anonymous reader writes with some discouraging news for hack-oriented purchasers of the new Droid X phone: "If the eFuse fails to verify [the firmware information (what we call ROMS), the kernel information, and the bootloader version], then the eFuse receives a command to 'blow the fuse' or 'trip the fuse.' This results in the booting process becoming corrupted, followed by a permanent bricking of the phone. This FailSafe is activated anytime the bootloader is tampered with or any of the above three parts of the phone has been tampered with."
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Droid X Self-Destructs If You Try To Mod

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  • by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @09:57AM (#32912758) Homepage Journal
    Now people's heads will hurt. Great Job!
  • Who cares (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thren (1667979) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @09:57AM (#32912766)
    Someone will find a way around this very quickly
    • I do, actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Svartalf (2997) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:07AM (#32912926) Homepage

      Sure they will... But I don't appreciate having them try to transform it more into a rental of the device than a sale- and then framing it in as a sale. I'm sure there's other people that'll view it the same way as I.

      Sadly, I'm fairly sure Verizon asked Moto to do this- they always seem to find a way to miss the point and try to assert "control" over everything.

      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:33AM (#32913440) Journal

        Sadly, I'm fairly sure Verizon asked Moto to do this- they always seem to find a way to miss the point and try to assert "control" over everything.

        Remember Verizon's "open network" imitative that was announced in 2008? Two years ago -- so where's my market for open non-branded devices that I can use on the Verizon Network? Surely they didn't make that announcement just to forestall regulation and maintain their walled garden, right?

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:40AM (#32914410) Homepage

        Then dont buy it. Hell spread it far and wide that you WONT buy it and why. How it has a self destruct built in.

        Give the Droid X a major PR black eye and suddenly companies wont try this crap again for a while...

        Honestly, non nerdy friends do listen to us when we say, "oh god no, dont buy that, it has this major problem with it"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      this is actually damaging to the phone. that is a horrible idea for verizon and will very likely end up with a lawsuit again.

      good job verizon/motorola!

    • by wonkavader (605434) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:13AM (#32913036)

      A hardware company actually put a self-destruct mechanism in the phone when you change the software.

      A. This will get tripped accidentally, even for naive users, and will cost owners money to fix.
      B. This violates the idea of ownership of the device. Motorola figures that they're licensing you parts, not selling. For an "open" OS, this is insane.
      C. Once you get around it, unless you can destroy the code, you still have that thing hanging around. A mistake or bad combination later on could trip it -- there's no reason to have to put up with walking through a minefield.

      All this translates to "Spread the news, blacklist the phone, send a message to Motorola." Because if this goes on as a "who cares" thing, all Motorola Android phones will have it in future and other companies will follow suit.

      This needs to be a black eye for Motorola, they need to notice that, and they need to quickly backpedal.

      • by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph&gmail,com> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:35AM (#32913474) Homepage

        Open Software != Open Hardware. Just throwin' that out there.

      • by silverpig (814884) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:55AM (#32914650)
        Apparently this is blown out of proportion: http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/07/15/reality-check-modding-the-droid-x-may-not-lead-to-a-bricked-phone/ [boygeniusreport.com] "This breaking news may not be as dire as many are claiming, as a google search of OMAP3 and e-fuse reveals that current OMPA handset already have e-fuse in place as part of the M-Shield hardware security technology built into TI’s OMAP system on a chip. It is on the very hackable DROID and the not-so-hacking-friendly Milestone, but it is not being used by Motorola to lock the bootloader of the handset. " etc...
    • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Informative)

      by kjart (941720) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:20AM (#32913166)

      Someone will find a way around this very quickly

      It's not even clear if this information is real. TFA [mobilecrunch.com] links to a forum post [mydroidworld.com] which doesn't seem to actually contain a source of the information (the OP states it's a mix of "hard information" and "conjecture"). Said forum post then links to the eFUSE wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article, which lists Droid X as having an implementation of eFUSE. However, if you look at the Droid X wikipedia page linked to from there, you'll see the original mobilecrunch.com is what is cited for the eFUSE inclusion bit.

      I'm not saying there is something fishy going on, but this could easily not be true.

      • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:16AM (#32914098)

        In fact the "eFUSE" feature is present in a staggeringly common component [stevenbird.info] in many different Android (and other...) devices, so the presence of an eFUSE is not in any way demonstrative of the functionality claimed.

      • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

        by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:59AM (#32914704) Homepage

        I've worked with security systems and I can definitely say that the guy who wrote that post doesn't know what he's talking about. I've hever heard of "resettable" eFUSEs. He keeps talking about eFUSEs as if they had some kind of power to control or supervise the boot procedure, which is bollocks - eFUSEs are storage elements, you need some kind of boot ROM to make use of the data and make decisions. And you don't "write programs in JTAG". Until someone writes something technically coherent about this issue, I'd take all of this with a huge grain of salt.

        eFUSEs can indeed be used for this kind of self-destruct-on-tamper behavior, but honestly I would be very surprised if it were actually implemented this way on a retail handset. Deliberately designing brickage into a unit is just a bad idea overall (except for security devices, e.g. HSMs and smartcards).

    • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NotBornYesterday (1093817) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:22AM (#32913212) Journal

      I've already found a way to get around this. I'll never buy one.

      Just add Motorola (and/or Verizon) to the list of companies that don't understand open platforms or respect end user rights. There are other pricey toys out there to choose from.

    • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:35AM (#32913488) Homepage Journal

      The way around it is simple -- don't buy one! It's not like there aren't any other Android phones out there.

      • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

        by yurtinus (1590157) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:36PM (#32915134)
        This is the exact same conversation that takes place regarding the iPhone closed platform - Somebody lists some restrictions they don't approve of and somebody else says "So? Don't buy one if you don't like it!" This misses the point entirely. The proper response to seemingly arbitrary restrictions on my (hypothetical) device is to not buy one, and then tell other folks who might be interested *why* I chose not to buy one. A handful of lost sales probably won't be noticed on a popular device, but some lost sales coupled with as much bad press as we can make might force some change. We first have Apple placing arbitrary restrictions on their device, now the primary competitor is doing the same - How many times does this story need to repeat itself until we're out of options?
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:01AM (#32912826) Homepage

    Not to defend a company which builds stuff which will brick your phone if you mod it, but ...

    Might there be legitimate reasons why Motorola would be required to do this? Patents they've licensed? Covering their asses against the RIAA et al? Perhaps Verizon wanted this?

    Or, is this truly a case of a company taking an open platform and buggering it up by locking it? It sounds shifty, but there might actually be strong reasons why they did it in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by characterZer0 (138196)

      More likely covering their asses against the FCC.

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:48AM (#32913718) Homepage

      In most Qualcomm processors (The MSM series used in most smartphones/PDA phones), there are dual ARM cores. This isn't a "dual core" system in the traditional sense, the cores are NOT identical and one is designed to handle radio functions and one is designed to handle application functions. On every phone I've seen, the radio is very well protected and the application side far less so. (Which is why, for example, WinMo phones tend to be "SuperCID" unlocked long before they get SIM-unlocked.) The dual-CPU nature makes this kind of protection approach (one side heavily protected, one far less so) much easier than trying to protect only certain code within a single CPU.

      However, the Droid X apparently uses a TI OMAP. I'm not sure if these have the same dual-core architecture that the Qualcomm MSMs do. For this reason it may be much harder to be confident about locking down the radio side to enforce SIMlocks and FCC rules without locking down the application side too.

  • by thittesd0375 (1111917) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:01AM (#32912834)
    Does your phone self destruct if you mod it? Where others don't... Droid does!
  • Goodbye Moto (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Coopjust (872796) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:01AM (#32912836)
    Seriously, I can understand your warranty being voided if you do unapproved modifications to a device, but designing the device so it blows up if you try to modify it is just wrong.

    Why do hardware companies think they should have the right to own the device forever? Why should I buy a device that has a time bomb built in that may trip if the official software gets corrupted due to a bug?

    The whole thing reeks. I'm done with Motorola. What is the point of this exactly? What does Motorola lose by you running a custom ROM? New phone sales when they decide after a year not to provide any Android updates?
    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:14AM (#32913056) Homepage

      This is just another nail in the coffin for Motorola, who becomes more and more irrelevant every year, being pushed out of the market on both sides by Apple and HTC.

      HTC makes the most robust and moddable phones on the planet, and do not try to stop the modding in any way - in fact one may say they passively encourage it.

      This post is coming from someone who owns a 4 year old HTC Vogue that came shipped with Windows mobile 6.0, but thanks to the modders, has been upgraded to 6.1 and 6.5, and more recently ove rthe past 3 months, has been running a fully working version of Android that is lightning fast. All on 4 year old hardware.

      This is what can be done when you don't shut out your customers - I am an HTC purchaser for life now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Devrdander (1105175)
      Its designed obsolescence. I learned this the hard way with my Samsung behold II, Samsung wants you to buy a new phone, and tries hard to lock you out of self updates so that the only option you have is to buy a new piece of hardware. The market has designed itself in such a way that its business model is dependent on people buying a new device every 2 years. If they let you openly hack your phone they cut into their bottom line. Hopefully the new players like HTC that are a bit more open will help chan
  • How is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:04AM (#32912874) Homepage

    If I purchase the phone outright, wouldn't this be willful destruction of property on Motorola's part? Does a company have the right to destroy a purchased product - after the sale - if the consumer doesn't use it in a prescribed manner?

    • by Xelios (822510) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:15AM (#32913082)
      Everything of this nature is legal, until it's brought before a court of law. Are you willing to put in years of stress and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to file a suit against a Telecom giant that might reward you the cost of the phone? I don't think I would be, and companies like Motorola count on the fact that most people aren't.
      • by XorNand (517466) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:39AM (#32913546)
        So you take them to small claims court, where in many jurisdictions lawyers are not permitted. Motorola will have to send a corporate officer to represent the company. A much more likely outcome is that they'll settle with you prior to the hearing. All it takes is a few people to do this, and then blog about it and/or post info on social networking sites. Suddenly, Motorola is facing hundreds of small claims suits. They're still likely to settle them all out of court for the cost of the phone, but perhaps the next time they make a phone someone in the initial design meeting says "Ya know, the fuse function really seemed to piss off a lot of people, people who are now likely buying phones from our competitors. Maybe we shouldn't take that route again."
        • by powerlord (28156) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:46AM (#32914494) Journal

          uddenly, Motorola is facing hundreds of small claims suits. They're still likely to settle them all out of court for the cost of the phone, but perhaps the next time they make a phone someone in the initial design meeting says "Ya know, the fuse function really seemed to piss off a lot of people, people who are now likely buying phones from our competitors. Maybe we shouldn't take that route again."

          No.

          They are likely to petition to have all these Small Claims rolled up into a Class Action suit (or some intrepid lawyer will, hoping to cash in on money they will make by battling Motorola).

          A judge is likely to grant the petition, and then Motorola can let their lawyers into the mix.

          Flash forward 5-10 years before the results actually matter (although it always possible Motorola MAY learn from this before then).

    • by ProppaT (557551) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:27AM (#32913310) Homepage

      You can legally buy a gun that only shoots in the direction of the person pulling the trigger, but it doesn't mean it's a good idea.

      I don't like this as much as the next /. reader, but if they put a visible tamper warning on the phone that the owner has to take off or, unfortunately, buries such text in a EULA then it's legally fine. It's unfortunate that there's so much that goes into being an informed consumer these days, but this is a slippery slope. As much as I'd like to say "there should be regulations against this!" there are an equal amount of items that Motorola et al think they should be able to get away with that I think are bad ideas.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:05AM (#32912892) Homepage

    Ah... I guess I won't be buying a DroidX then. Sad, really... I was looking forward to getting one when the contract was up on my Droid.

    And I've been very happy with my Droid. Now, one wonders...was this done to suit Verizon or if it was on Moto's own thinking that it was done. I might not have modded my phone when I got it, but doing things like this are a real put-off. I bought the phone, it's mine to do with as I see fit- and putting in things like this take that away from me. It turns it into Motorola's device or Verizon's device and I'm just renting it. Sorry, you SOLD me a phone guys and if you're concerned about "user experience" or "risks to the network" design the damn phone to not need to be concerned about EITHER- and anything else is lying to the customer outright.

  • by swanky (23477) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:10AM (#32912978) Homepage

    Because of this setup--isn't it entirely possible that some sort of malware can be created to actually attempt to brick the phone by triggering efuse?

  • Citation needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumith (983060) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:14AM (#32913062)
    I did follow the TFA to the origin of the story (MyDroidWorld [mydroidworld.com] forum), and I still don't see any code, captured data or even a photo of the said eFuse chip inside the DroidX. I understand that the original poster appears to be a reputable hacker, but come on, what kind of real reporting is this? Can anyone else verify these claims? More information needed, thank you very much whoever posts it, because if true, this is an outrage.
    • Re:Citation needed (Score:4, Informative)

      by Coopjust (872796) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:27AM (#32913302)
      Motorola acknowledged this back in February [motorola.com]:

      We understand there is a community of developers interested in going beyond Android application development and experimenting with Android system development and re-flashing phones. For these developers, we highly recommend obtaining either a Google ADP1 developer phone or a Nexus One, both of which are intended for these purposes. At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers and Android application developers, and we have currently chosen not to go into the business of providing fully unlocked developer phones.

      The use of open source software, such as the Linux kernel or the Android platform, in a consumer device does not require the handset running such software to be open for re-flashing. We comply with the licenses, including GPLv2, for each of the open source packages in our handsets. We post appropriate notices as part of the legal information on the handset and post source code, where required, at http://opensource.motorola.com./ [opensource.motorola.com] Securing the software on our handsets, thereby preventing a non-Motorola ROM image from being loaded, has been our common practice for many years. This practice is driven by a number of different business factors. When we do deviate from our normal practice, such as we did with the DROID, there is a specific business reason for doing so. We understand this can result in some confusion, and apologize for any frustration.

      • Re:Citation needed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:03AM (#32913940)

        A locked-down bootloader is not uncommon on Android devices these days. That the Droid X bootloader is locked by no means demonstrates the ridiculous measures that the article claims Motorola have implimented.

      • Re:Citation needed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by assantisz (881107) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:28AM (#32914256)
        I am sorry but I do not see that Motorola acknowledged the use of eFuse technology. Yes, they locked the bootloader down just like they did with the Milestone (using encryption). Other than that it is pure speculation. Show me the pictures or show me a bricked phone and then we talk.
      • Re:Citation needed (Score:5, Informative)

        by jimicus (737525) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:32AM (#32914304)

        The use of open source software, such as the Linux kernel or the Android platform, in a consumer device does not require the handset running such software to be open for re-flashing. We comply with the licenses, including GPLv2, for each of the open source packages in our handsets.

        (my emphasis)

        This is exactly the sort of thing GPLv3 was intended to circumvent. Whether that's because the FSF foresaw a future where there were so many locked down devices that most people simply wouldn't buy a general purpose PC any more or because they simply thought it was a bit disingenuous to provide source but no way of running the compiled code is another matter altogether.

  • by lxs (131946) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:15AM (#32913070)

    Compared to the eFuse, their new iFuse just works, which makes for an infinitely superior bricking experience.

  • Corporate Security (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Manhigh (148034) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:15AM (#32913076)

    I'm under the impression that the Droid X is intended for the business market, to try to take a bite out of RIM's market share. This sounds like an attempt to make the phone more "secure" by preventing people from getting at the data by rooting the phone. Not that it's necessarily the best way, but thats just my 2 cents.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:16AM (#32913094)
    Move along.
  • "Written in JTAG" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:19AM (#32913146) Homepage

    "Written in JTAG" implies a program written in a language called JTAG.

    The problem is that JTAG is a standardized electrical communications protocol used to support debugging of ICs, and often also used to program them.

    Nothing can be "written in JTAG" because it isn't a programming language. I question whether the poster on that forum has any clue what's really going on. So far the only evidence of this is one forum post that has very little detail and has some glaring technical/grammatical errors (see above). I'll believe it when I see a more in-depth analysis.

  • by markus_baertschi (259069) <markus@mark u s . org> on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:21AM (#32913186)

    I hope Motorola get's a nice class-action suit out of this.

    Imagine a nice little virus, designed to trigger the 'self-destruct' and some innocent users getting infected.

    Markus

  • by Crippere (1825560) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:22AM (#32913206)
    Apparently, this is not the Droid you're looking for.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:28AM (#32913348) Journal

    So a guy [p3droid] few know posts a speculative comment [mydroidworld.com]

    So this post is a mix of hard information and a bit of conjecture on my part (guesses).

    and /. takes it as fact? At least p3droid has the courtesy to warn his readers what a conjecture is and that's all his post is.

     

  • GPL violation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Urkki (668283) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:59AM (#32913890)

    Is all the GPL code in Android under such a version of GPL, that this is legal? I mean, it prevents the user from changing certain parts of the GPL software, something which at least some versions of GPL require, as far as I understand.

  • GPL v3 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Excelsior (164338) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:04AM (#32913952)

    Isn't this exactly what the GPL v3 is designed to prevent (Tivo-ization)? Seems like FSF's concerns are once again coming true. Too bad Linux won't ever adopt v3, it seems.

  • While I love a good ragefest, wouldn't it be prudent to check the facts?

    Droid, DroidX, Droid2 and others -- they all have this efuse, it's nothing new. Perhaps rather than making assumptions based on the presence of a device, someone could do some actual research to find out if this is really a concern? Just because the chip is present does not mean it's configured to brick the phone - it certainly hasn't done so in other Android devices using it.

  • In past days... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:50PM (#32915322)

    In past days this would be properly seen as a hardware quirk to be worked around. Like a buggy SCSI controller which trashes your disks when you hit it with an obscure command sequence. You don't throw up your hands, foam at the mouth, and threaten the manufacturer! You figure out what you need to do to avoid the undesirable behavior.

    My God, you modder people are turning into a bunch of pussies and whiners. THE WHOLE POINT OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING is to have fun and push the hardware into areas it was not meant to go. In this case, the manufacturers have laid a few things in your path to make life interesting. Take it as a challenge, as we've always done in the past, rather than acting like a whiny bitch. My God, the hacker spirit is well and truly dead.

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