Droid X on Lockdown, But Hacks Won't Brick It

By  |  Friday, July 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm

If the Droid X’s U.S. launch had just one pockmark, it was the hoopla that transpired when one Android enthusiast declared the phone would become a brick when hacked.

It all started when My Droid World forum admin p3droid declared that a chip called eFuse was triggered to blow when the Droid X’s digitally-signed bootloader is tampered with, rendering the phone unusable. Attempts to run custom ROMs on the phone, such as Cyanogen, would likely produce a Motorola-branded doorstop that only the company could fix. MobileCrunch’s Devin Coldewey ran with the story, as did other sites, and a debate ensued on whether the phone does, in fact, have a hardware-killing security feature.

So Engadget cleared the air with Motorola, who said the phone is not rigged to blow, but it does go into “Recovery Mode” when booted with unauthorized software. This is for security reasons, and for meeting carrier, partner and legal requirements, Motorola said. Re-installing Motorola-approved software restores the Droid X to normal.

Okay, great. But I think the debate yesterday was misdirected. The problem is not that the Droid X becomes a brick when hacked, but that it cannot be hacked. While the lack of a phone-killing security feature means hackers are at a greater liberty to tinker, they won’t get anywhere. Motorola Milestone, the original Droid’s overseas sibling, has the same digitally-signed bootloader, and its security measures haven’t been broken yet. There are workarounds for loading custom ROMs on the Milestone, but they are difficult to perform, and there are other drawbacks, as explained by TheUnlockr.

Any tech topic with the word “brick” in it makes for a better headline, but I’d rather see the discussion focus on why Motorola doesn’t want its users hacking the Droid X, rather than what nasty things will happen to the phone if they do.


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10 Comments For This Post

  1. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    It's not about the user hacking, it's about the user being hacked. Same as iPhone. The fact that the phone will only boot its own stock software means you can use your phone with the confidence that someone else has not put malicious system software on there. Android phones have been purchased from carriers with malicious images on them, loaded either by someone who worked for the carrier or by a customer who then returned the phones. The level of security on these devices has to be *better* than a PC. The fact that they are smaller computers than PC's causes people to think that intuitively, a phone should have worse security than a PC. But it is carried around 24/7 in most cases, it has very, very personal information on it, it is always on the network, it has to be more secure than a PC. When you also consider that Windows PC's have almost no security, yes, a user who has a Windows PC and buys a smartphone should be shocked to find many, many security features on their phone that are not on their Windows PC.

  2. Mister Reiner Says:


  3. Lava Says:

    Funny how locking down an Android device suddenly becomes "protecting the user."

    When Apple locks down the iPhone, it's the end of democracy.

  4. ediedi Says:

    I thought part of the advantage of an android device is that you can do whatever you want to it.

  5. Max Says:

    I’d say the ‘while also meeting carrier, partner and legal requirements’ part weighed far more heavily on the decision to lock down the bootloader than ‘the security of our end users and protection of their data’.

  6. James Talbot Says:

    Can you sync the Droid X with your computer, windows programs?

  7. Gordon Says:

    What i dont understand is why who ever designed the Android OS locked down its ability to be customized so much. If you really think about it, everyone is tossing around words like "bricked" "bootloader" "rooting your phone" "superuser access" and all kinds of hacker jargon. Of course no matter what new technology comes out someone wants to hack it, but if you think about what the majority of subcribers use these hacks for, you find that that just want to remove all the crap that comes preloaded on the phone that they might never use. They want to customize the backgrounds, how the icons are arranged, how you interact with the phone and how it looks overall. I dont want the Droid X that everyone else has, I want the Droid X that reflects who I am and how I work. Why is it that whoever is paying someone to create this OS and GUI never thinks about these things. If they did, then the only people who would be discussing "hacking" is hackers themselves.

  8. Derek W Says:

    Please note that once your phone has been rooted any 'hacks' (such as removing apps or customizing the UI) you preform to your phone WILL BRICK your phone. The eFUSE chip lock down has done nothing but brick several underexperienced early adopters phones.

  9. BobH22 Says:

    I hope that the lockdown will end soon. I can't wait to try out Droid X. Cheap Business Class Tickets to India

  10. Mart Says:

    I'm sure the lockdown will end soon. I am pretty much sure about it. best budget digital slr cameras