Posted: 2022-01-27 (UTC+00:00)
Updated: 2022-11-09 (UTC+00:00)
The world has become a dangerous, privacy invading, human rights stripping, totalitarian place; in order to combat this, people are joining a growing, and dangerous, trend, which I will refer to in this post as the "Free and Open Source (FOSS) movement". With that stated, I will now debunk the misinformation being spread inside of this extremely flawed movement.
The FOSS movement is an attempt to regain privacy and control over our devices and data, but the entire concept of FOSS-only, at the current time, is severely, and dangerously, flawed. What the FOSS community does not seem to understand is the fact that most FOSS software cares not about security. "Security"; keep that word in mind as you progress through this article. What is security? Security is being safe and secure from adversaries and unwanted consequences; security protects our rights and allows us to protect ourselves. Without security, we have no protection, and without protection, we have a lack of certainty of everything else, including privacy and control, which is what the FOSS movement is seeking.
FOSS projects rarely take security into account; they simply look at the surface level, rather than the actual root cause of the issues they are attempting to fight against. In this case, the focus is on privacy and control. Without security mechanisms to protect the privacy features and the ability to control your devices and data, it can be stripped away as if it never existed in the first place, which, inevitably, leads us back to the beginning, and the cycle repeats. With this ideology, privacy and control will *never* be achieved. There is no foundation to build privacy or control upon. It is impossible to build a solid, freedom respecting platform on this model.
A FOSS phone, especially so-called "Linux phones" are completely detrimental to privacy and control, because they do not have the security necessary to enforce that privacy. Unlocked bootloaders prevent the device from verifying the integrity of the boot chain, including the OS, meaning any adversary, whether a stranger who happens to pick up the device, or a big tech or government entity, can simply inject malicious code into your software and you wouldn't have any idea it was there. If that's not enough of a backdoor for you to reconsider your position, how about the trivial evil maid and data extraction attacks which could be executed on your device, without coercion? With Android phones, this is bad enough to completely break the privacy and control the FOSS movement seeks, but "Linux phones" take it a step further by implementing barely any security, if any at all. Privilege escalation is trivial to achieve on any Linux system, which is the reason Linux hardening strategies often include restricting access to the root account; if you root your Android phone, or use a "Linux phone", you've already destroyed the security model, and thus privacy and control model you were attempting to achieve. Not only are these side effects of FOSS, so is the absolutely illogical restriction of not being able to, or making it unnecessarily difficult to, install and update critical components of the system, such as proprietary firmware, which just so happens to be almost all of them. "Linux phones" are not as free as they proclaim to be.
You may ask "What's so bad about using
LineageOS?", to which I answer with "What's not bad about it?".
LineageOS is not the only Android OS (commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as a "ROM") with such issues, but it is one of the worst. The only things such insecure OSes can provide you are customisation abilities, and a backdoor to your data. They are best suited as a development OS, not a production OS.
What can you do about this? The answer is simple; however, it does require you to use logic, fact, and evidence, not emotion, which is a difficult pill for most people to swallow. Use your adversaries' weapons against them. The only way to effectively combat the privacy invasion and lack of control of our devices and data is to become a renegade and not take sides. Yes, that means not taking sides with the closed source, proprietary, big tech and government entities, but it also means not taking sides with any FOSS entities. The only way to win this war is to take *whatever* hardware and software you can, and use it tactically.
The only solution for phone security, privacy, and control, is to use a Google Pixel (currently, Pixel 4a-series or newer) running GrapheneOS. Google Pixel phones allow you complete bootloader freedom, including the ability to lock the bootloader after flashing a custom OS (GrapheneOS includes a custom OS signing key to allow locking the bootloader and enabling verified boot to prevent malware persistence, evil maid attacks, and boot chain corruption), long device support lifecycles (minimum 3 years for Pixel 4a-series to Pixel 5a, minimum 5 years for Pixel 6-series and newer), and guaranteed monthly security updates for the entire support timeframe of the devices.
Use what you can, and do what you can. By neglecting security, you are, even if unintentionally, neglecting exactly what you are trying to gain; privacy and control.