CyanogenMod rolls out secure device-locating feature

CyanogenMod is a free/open version of the Android operating system. Yesterday, they announced a cool new feature called CM Account, for recovering and/or wiping lost or stolen devices. Unlike traditional device-locating services, which effectively offer a back-door to your phone or tablet that can be exploited by hackers, spies, or unscrupulous insiders, CyanogenMod's version relies on your browser establishing a secure connection to your device, without anyone in the middle having access to the keys and passwords used to hijack the device and get its location or wipe its drive. The service was developed in part by Moxie Marlinspike, a legendary security and privacy hacker, and the code is open and free for audit.

The CM account is optional and free. The service is secure and managed by us. The website client side encryption code is not obfuscated. The application is open sourced and Apache licensed. We highly encourage our contributors to participate in a security and privacy review and understand what sets us apart from other solutions.

Obviously, some of you will have privacy concerns and are sensitive of your data. We have created a privacy policy, terms of use page and general “What is a CyanogenMod Account” page to hopefully answer most of your questions. But even if you choose not to read them, we’ll say it as clearly as possible:

* We have no interest in selling your data

* We cannot track you or wipe your device. We designed the protocol in such a way that makes it impossible for anyone but you to do that.

CyanogenMod Account (via Engadget)

Notable Replies

  1. As a CM user (but waiting for something mildly stable for the HTC One), I like this a lot.

    In the meantime I'm still using AndroidLost, which is powerful, useful and pretty transparent. The author claims that its use of your Google Account means only you can control your phone (see Privacy and Security).

  2. I have/use a crapload of Google accounts and services, but when it comes down to trust, I'd believe in CyanogenMod long before Google...

  3. At the risk of getting off-topic, I generally place more faith in these guys than Google, but there's still a prevailing mentality that developers are more important than users, which really rubs me the wrong way.

    Look at the direction they took over an experimental feature to give users fine-grained control over permissions: https://plus.google.com/100275307499530023476/posts/iLrvqH8tbce

    While a lot of reasons were given, all the talk about "backlash from developers who don't want their apps running in unpredictable environments" and a desire to avoid "app developers pissed off at CM and blacklisting us" really felt like the root motivation behind the decision to nuke the feature.

    I want final say over what happens on my phone. If that upsets a software developer, too damn bad. Don't release your code if you don't want people running it any way they see fit.

  4. In it's current state, the UX was awful. It was easy to wander into
    these settings and break things in weird ways that were not obvious at
    all.

    That seems like excellent reasoning. Putting things into the Android core that could cause weird breaks unless developers handle appropriate feedback is one thing -- putting things into a non-standard rom (even one as widespread as CM) that could cause weird, seemingly-random breaks for developers who are coding for standard Android devices is quite a different thing entirely.

    That's not favoring the developers, that's favoring "normal" users... and I say that as someone who really would like to have much more fine-grained permission control in Android.

  5. But is CM even for "normal" users in the first place? Being able to break something is just a side effect of having more control over it. I'll take features over stability any day.

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