Why Blocking Root Users Is a Bridge Too Far

Rooting your Android phone, shady business for some, pure satisfaction for control freaks and customization lovers. Among these root access privileged users there are obviously a bunch of cheaters and hackers we should be aware of, but there are also a lot of legit users.

 Disputed Pokémon Go Update

Niantic‘s immensely popular game, Pokémon Go recently got an update that blocks devices that are granted root access. From now on, users with elevated rights are not allowed to play the game anymore.

pokemon goDefinite and potential cheaters are avoided from disrupting the intended gameplay, which obviously is a good thing. The downside though, is that all the legitimate players that happen to have rooted their device are now duped.

The result of those duped players not having access to their beloved game must be rather significant. The sales coming from in-app purchases will be directly impacted as less users can buy in-game goodies. The somewhat more indirect impact would concise of negative 1-star ratings on the Play Store. Fora get filled with negative user feedback, people will start discourage others playing the game.

On another note, it is a bit of a strange decision on Niantic’s part, considering they have already built in descent cheating protection. That would be an expertise learned from their previous game, Ingress, which shows a lot of similarities to Pokémon Go (as it is also a positioning based game). People trying to spoof their GPS location are likely to be banned, if they even managed to properly spoof the device’s location. That is a good way to remove the unwanted players from using the app.

Limiting the User Beyond 1 App

If one application blocks the rooted user, they are basically discouraged to continue using their root-required apps and features. A company should not decide for it’s users whether or not they can use rooted Android devices.

Imagine what elevated access can do. It allows one to completely customize their Android livery. Tiresome adds can be removed using ad-blockers, CPU usage and performance can be tweaked. Want to open your favorite music app as you plug headphones in? Guess what you need, root access. There are plenty more reasons why one would want to root his/her device.

Hacky Work-Arounds

What would you expect, root guru’s to stop finding tricky solutions to bypass this kind of issue? There are already quite a few apps that can hide your Su binary. Those however, don’t always do the trick.

Some people like to use something like the Xposed Framework to ‘cloack’ root from specific apps. Others like to go over using the game-changing Magisk.


Author: Thibault Helsmoortel

Belgian IT enthusiast with a wide range of interests. Enjoys table tennis and meeting friends at the local bar.

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