Rooting an Android phone or jailbreaking an iOS device allows you to access system files and settings, run apps that wouldn’t otherwise work, and make big changes to the way your device works.

That’s exactly why some people want to root their devices — but it’s also why rooting can actually make your device more vulnerable to security threats.

SuperUser

If your phone isn’t rooted, then a hacker could theoretically access data such as your contact list or email account details. But they probably wouldn’t be able to alter the operating system.

That’s why no major phone or tablet maker ships a device that has root access enabled.

Most custom ROMS, on the other hand, include root access. This makes it possible to run apps like Titanium Backup which require root privileges. But it also means that your phone or tablet is more vulnerable to attack. You could also cause some serious damage by accidentally deleting or changing system files.

Now the folks at CyanogenMod have announced that they’re changing the way they treat root access in upcoming versions of their popular Android ROM.

When you install CyanogenMod 9 you won’t have root privileges right away. You’ll need to enable them. There are also a few different levels.

You can choose to enable root for ADB access so that you can connect your Android device to a computer and allow root access when the two are talking to one another. Or you can allow Android apps to use root privileges and access system files and settings.

I suspect a lot of CyanogenMod users will just go ahead and flip the switch to enable root a few minutes after installing the software. But for those that want all the features that come with a custom ROM but who also want the security that comes with an unrooted phone, that will be the default option from now on.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing.He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...