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  1. What is root access? And why you should know if an app has it

What is root access? And why you should know if an app has it

What does root access on Android smartphone mean? How does it work? But most importantly, the question you need to ask is why you should keep track of apps that ask for root permissions.

By: | New Delhi | Published: March 13, 2018 4:27 PM
Is rooting good or bad? Whether you should go ahead or not? (Image Credit: Reuters) Is rooting good or bad? Whether you should go ahead or not? (Image Credit: Reuters)

Up until a few days back, Paytm, the popular payments player in the country, would ask for root permission on an Android smartphone. Soon a report followed that informed that Paytm has decided to stop ‘root access’ on Android phones. As innocuous as it may seem to many, the development raises many significant questions – Why did Paytm want to have access the root of an Android smartphone in the first place? What does root access on Android smartphone mean? How does it work? But most importantly, the question you need to ask is why you should keep track of apps that ask for root permissions.

What is root access?
When you root your device, you have access to the hardware of the device, a process that provides a user with privileged control (known as root access). Users who use Android-based smartphones, tablets and other devices can use the device to its fullest. Android uses the Linux kernel and if you root an Android device then you can have access to administrative (superuser) permissions. One of the examples where rooting can be used is if you have an old smartphone which may not run on the latest version of Android as the OEM may have stopped the updates, but you may want it. You can install the custom ROM of the latest version of Android and reap benefits.

How does it work?
Once you have rooted your device, you basically have the access to the maximum that your device can possibly do. It is not advisable to root your device just because you can. Once you root your device, you will void the warranty that is provided by the OEM, with some exceptions. There are many popular websites that provide information on how to root your device. One of the biggest repercussions, when you root your device, is that you may brick your device.

How can root access help Apps/companies?
If an app has root access, then it will be able to virtually access your device. This raises obvious safety concerns on the kind of applications you allow such level of penetration. Your smartphone already gives access to various hardware such microphone and camera and location settings also. By rooting your device you gain control over the CPU performance as well, thus apps who look for such control will ask for permission to use it. It all depends whether you want to give access to a particular app or not.

Should you grant root access?
If you are a power user and want to maximise the potential of your smartphone, then you should carry on by rooting your smartphone. However, you need to be extemely careful, when you root your device. For those who use their device for personal banking transactions and need that safety patch from the software, then you should stay away from rooting.

Why was Paytm asking for root access?
Other Payments App such as UPI based BHIM app doesn’t work on a rooted device. Due to security concerns, it is essential to use payments apps to many apps keep a check on whether a device is rooted or not. Paytm is also one such app and it also happens to be a payments app as well. Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma responded to a query on Paytm wanting to have the root access on Twitter and wrote: “… NPCI asked us to check rooted phone via this permission for enabling UPI …” They have since stopped asking for root access.

There are a plethora of apps that require root access. In order for the application to ask for root access, your device needs to be rooted. But in order to keep a check on the apps that require special access on your smartphone, you need to head towards settings menu and tap on ‘Apps’. Once you are here, you need to check for app permissions and see the list of applications installed on your smartphone. Now here, you can check what apps use what sort of hardware and whether you want to allow the app to have the access to the hardware or not.

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