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Visitor
Mr_Drew
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-25-2011

Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

Dear Symantec,

 

I'm a first time Android and Tablet user but long time PC user and repair technician. After much searching, I haven't found any tool or utility (that doesn't come off as completely shady) that would allow one to "ghost" or otherwise make a full-fledged system recovery image in case the device gets "bricked", viruses, corrupted, hacked or otherwise enters an unusable or undesireable state. Working on PCs since Windows 3.1, I've experienced first hand and have seen countless more times just how badly a system can be devastated.

 

In short, my feature request is for a way to backup as well as restore the entire Android operating system, not just apps, settings and personal data. PLEASE make it happen. A mobile version of Ghost would allow me to use my new tablet with alot less worries and stress about what apps I install and from where on top where I go on the web.

 

I know most tablets and phones have a built-in recovery mode but I worry about if one is not able to access it or if the recovery data becomes corrupt or deleted. As such, the ability to make a backup on a memory card or USB device that can be kept safe and stored seperately from the system would be perfect.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew J. Paradiso

Trojan Terminator
Andmike
Posts: 4,003
Registered: ‎03-23-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

Hi Mr_Drew.

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

I don't have a tablet and so cannot comment on that but I think most phones have a "factory reset" option which is supposed to take the phone back to its original state so that you can reload your apps, data etc.  Have you considered that as part of your solution?

Visitor
Mr_Drew
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-25-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

Yes, I'm aware of that but my concern is if something happens to it where that internal restore data / partition whatever it may be also gets overwritten or erased. Its why I always perferred having or being able to make my own recovery media for peace of mind. Considering its all firmware on a ROM, all it takes is either user stupidity or one malicious app and boom, everything including that is gone and I'm left with a bricked system.

 

I know updates, recovery media and even entire custom versions of the OS can be flashed via memory card if you hold it a few buttons upon boot so I'd like to take advantage of that by being able to make a backup / ghost of my own system. I know there's "stock" images on the web that do that but I'd be more trusting of my own because then I know now one hacked or tampered with the original image. Since most of these companies lack an external or downloadable recovery tool / disk. I'd like to have the capabilities to do so by a name I trust, Norton. Whose Ghost software I've been using for years, especially when my urge to tinker involves messing around with system files and settings.

Symantec Employee
erik_carlstrom
Posts: 4,409
Registered: ‎04-10-2008

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

Personally I like the idea of a mobile/tablet version of Norton Ghost.  Keep in mind that anything like this on the device itself would require Root access.  Is this something that you would want to do entirely from the device or would running from a PC work as well?  Just trying to get an idea of what you're looking for.  

Erik
Product Manager
Symantec Corporation
Visitor
Mr_Drew
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-25-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

I'm SO sorry for the late reply. I hope you still get this. I don't know much about root access because I'm primarily a Windows user and technician (assuming its some form of becoming an administration / super user) with very entry level Linux knowledge - in short if I can't access it from the GUI, I'm not able to do it yet. However I'm very knowledgeable in Windows.

 

I wouldn't mind it (root access that is) though if a name I trust, Norton, either walked me through the process in the instruction manual (preferred, so I learn) or has a utility to do it for me vs. relying on random websites with mixed information.

 

As for how I'd like the software to behave. My ideal version would be that creating the image / ghost (device to image) could be done by both methods based on user's preference - either directly from device to external storage (SD / Micro SD / USB, etc.) and while linked to a PC. However, the restoring operation (image to device) would be loaded and running from the PC - especially useful if the device is "bricked" as they say and won't boot due to either malicious software, bad system update, or a failed attempt to install their own or customized system. If there was a way to do that from the device as well with some form of bootable media, that would be great too - if Android even can boot from external storage. When it comes to using a PC based tool on it, I'd like to not be locked into using just Windows if possible, so a Linux version would be nice too.

 

I'm pretty new to Android. If it helps, I'd love to be able to test out anything you create for this though. Also, I own an Acer Iconia A500 tablet if knowing the device I plan on working with helps you.

 

Thank you SO much for you time, patience and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew J. Paradiso

Trojan Terminator
Andmike
Posts: 4,003
Registered: ‎03-23-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

Hello again Mr_Drew.

 

Don't worry we are still here.

 

Your requests will have to be considered and possibly fulfilled by Norton staff and I am not on their payroll, so I will leave them to consider and possibly comment on your wishes.  

 

However I will just pass an amateur's comment on root access.  A phone with root access is also referred to as rooted.  As I understand it this is a one off action for a phone and rather as with pregnancy you cannot be a little bit rooted.  If root access is obtained on a phone then a large part of the security protection on the phone is removed and users or malicious programs have a far freer control of the device.  So it is not as if you could give root access to a Norton app but not give it to another app.  A phone with root access has root access.

 

With Android, before you install an app it should tell you what freedoms it needs to operate so you can decide whether to install it and grant the freedoms, or not.  But not many people understand the freedoms they are granting and often it is very difficult to understand why, even safe and reputable, apps need to be able to do various things.  Under these circumstances most phone users are well advised to steer clear of root access.  Many however, get root access to their phones to free them from specific providers or to install certain apps that they think they need.  Some come to regret it...

 

As a user with a rooted phone I am glad to have Norton Mobile Security there to try and protect my back.  I might also occasionally like to have features that Norton might provide if it did have root access.  However as an organisation supporting safe computing it might seem ironic if Norton insisted that devices were rooted to allow its software to work.  I suppose my ideal would be for Norton to offer products that offer two levels of functionality, one for non rooted phones and an other for rooted ones.

 

I hope that helped a bit.  Others will hopefully point out where I am a bit off beam.  ;-)

Symantec Employee
erik_carlstrom
Posts: 4,409
Registered: ‎04-10-2008

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

To be clear, for legal reasons we wouldn't create an app that walks you through the rooting process.  The reason for this is that rooting a device (on the Apple side it's called jail breaking) is taking advantage of a vulnerability to unlock super user access to the device. We are also undecided about providing features that require root access for this reason as well.  

 

As to the product/feature you suggested, it is something being looked at, but I cannot promise when or if we release a product like this.  The best I can say is "stay tuned" as we release more Apps.  

Erik
Product Manager
Symantec Corporation
Visitor
Mr_Drew
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-25-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

[ Edited ]

@AndMike - I understand that root access is an all or nothing deal but from what I've been hearing, one could also unroot their device as well. Which means, assuming this is a task that can be accomplished without TOO much effort (i.e. A few settings or command lines), I can imagine one rooting their device temporarily to let a mobile version of Norton Ghose do it's thing followed by unrooting it after creating a successful device image.

 

The most vital feature for this software idea to be successful though is the ability to flash a ghosted image to a bricked device that cannot boot on it's own anymore due to corrupted system files.

 

I also understand what you're saying about that if you gain root access, it is easier for malicious apps to execute but I've heard stories of some being able to grant themselves root access anyways by installing as an add-on to another app with permissions or by simply exploiting a vulnerability in the Android OS to grant itself root. Some of these are even able to modify and corrupt the system's own built-in recovery image / feature making the need for Norton Ghost, which can image to external storage that much more vital. These devices are very costly and I'd hate to see something happen to mine which makes a mobile and tablet version Ghost priceless to me.

 

Malicious code targetted at Android has skyrocketed from what I've been reading lately and to me, the best defense, better than even anti-virus as zero-day exploits can still sometimes get through is simply having a clean, reliable image on hand that one can roll back to.

 

I'm praying that the wonderful folks at Symantec can make it happen. I've been a loyal Symantec user since Norton Anti-Virus and Norton Your Eyes Only for Windows 95 and they've never let me down once. After that, a few years later I learned about ghosting and discovered Norton Ghost and have had total peace of mind ever since. Here's to hoping they continue that tradition.

Symantec Employee
erik_carlstrom
Posts: 4,409
Registered: ‎04-10-2008

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

All good points.  One this to keep in mind, Rooting is not a simple "change this setting and you're rooted/unrooted."  Rooting a device varies by device and the installed ROM.  Some are simple, some are far from it.  As I said, "stay tuned."  

Erik
Product Manager
Symantec Corporation
Visitor
Mr_Drew
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-25-2011

Re: Feature Suggestion - Full Android Operating System Backup / Recovery

[ Edited ]

@ Erik - You know, I never quite understood why that would or should even be considered a vulnerability or a legal issue for that matter, especially in the case of Android in which the operating system is open-source to begin with. That would be like Windows preventing their paid users or Linux preventing people from becoming an Administrator, editting the system registry, hidden system features or group policies. It makes no sense.

 

Apple can do what it wants because the system is closed source and if preventing users from accessing the full ability of their device costs them customers (the reason why I picked Android over the iPad to begin with outside of lacking Flash support) then that's Apple's problem and unfortunately Norton is legally bound to respect that BUT in the case of Android, an open-source operating system that has no such terms of use to my knowledge, they should at least be able to walk an Android user through the process (as well as how to reverse it) with a simple disclaimer telling them to do so at their own risk.

 

There should be some way, Norton could try to get permission from at least Google with walking users through rooting Android. Especially because as it stands right now - malicious software makers and hackers have a HUGE advantage over normal users since again, the system is open source. By being able to freely examine the source code, hackers and malware makers can easily exploit things far worse than the system's own users wanting to grant themselves root. Android users should be allowed to defend themselves and fight back against these threats.

 

EDIT : Got your reply after I finished typing this. I see, I figured it was just a simple setting or set of hidden settings. Since it's based on device and is not something that's universal per version of the Operating System, I can see why this would be difficult to accomplish. Well, I'll stay tuned and hopefully Symantec will be able to work something out with both the OS ROM and device manufacturers for maximum compatibility.