updated 01:15 pm EST, Mon December 27, 2010
Samsung Galaxy Tab getting 'unhackable' firmware
Samsung may soon roll out a new firmware update for the Galaxy Tab that will clamp down much more tightly than Apple does for the iPad, experimenters found late Sunday. The new JM6 A, C and D builds Samsung is planning have bootloaders that are signed and prevent unauthorized firmware from running. Once the firmware is installed, any jailbreaks, roots and other custom firmware won't run, XDA-Developers members learned.
Later builds aren't as uniformly locked, but they so far all have at least some code signing that creates the same effect. Users are hopeful of a workaround in software but have been concerned that it might require soldering or other physical tricks to get the same access as they have with the current official code. HTC has a similar approach on the T-Mobile G2 that reverts to official firmware but which has been thwarted since.
It's not clear if the firmware in its current state is intended for final devices, though previous leaked builds haven't had the same restrictions.
If made official, the step could make the Android 2.2 tablet not only difficult to hack but paradoxically more restrictive than the iPad. While Apple often patches up security holes and has tighter control over what apps are allowed to run on normal firmware, iOS is relatively easy to crack in current form. Apple just recently dropped jailbreak detection code as well, although this is primarily for enterprise users and not Apple's own ends.
Google has routinely claimed that Android is more open but has also used this to let hardware manufacturers and carriers lock down the hardware themselves. Only official Google phones such as the Nexus One and Nexus S have unlocked bootloaders that let users change the firmware without needing a hack.