CopperheadOS: Proof That We Need A Dark Android
The idea for the Dark Android Project was started in 2013, not longer after the world-changing “Snowden Revelations”, and certainly the idea of having a mobile device that allows for security, anonymity, and privacy (what I call “DAPS“), is a direct response to what Ed Snowden had revealed.
And that’s the whole goal of the Dark Android Project: Give people the baseline recommendations for how individuals can have an actual secure and private mobile device (phone or tablet). But you’d be surprised at how much pushback and insults have come my way because of my recommendations. While most people recognize that using an alternative, (more fully) open source, Android-based ROM/OS like CyanogenMod, AOSP itself, or Resurrection Remix is a very good thing and can give a device a new lease on life, as well as features it never had before…the instant I say DON’T USE THE FUCKING GOOGLE PLAY STORE…everyone goes crazy.
“You mean I can’t download the Facebook Messenger app?“, you say? Yes, slapnuts, I’m saying that if you use those apps, you might as well toss your privacy out the window along with that block of sensors you keep in your back pocket (okay, it’s not that bad, but if you’re talking about high level privacy/security, the Google Play Store is anathema).
Bottom line, people think my recommendations are just too far for them, and have even called them insane. Well, funny thing, a new privacy and security-centered Android-based OS called “CopperheadOS“–developed by security company, Copperhead–has proven almost all of the points I’ve talked about at the Dark Android Project and on the Dark Android Blog. Let’s take a look at the CopperheadOS feature set:
It all looks good to me, and every change they’ve made to Google’s Android proper should be a personal wake-up call to everything that is wrong with your smartphone/tablet. But one in particular on want to concentrate is on the right-hand side: “Open-source and free of proprietary services: Google integration is entirely optional”.
Now why the Hell would Copperhead make this a feature if Google’s services (including the Google Play Store) were so goddamned secure and not a concern for privacy and security? It’s because THEY ARE. If you are genuinely serious about having locked down devices that you can use privately, securely, and anonymously, you can’t have a stitch of Google’s bullshit on there. And CopperheadOS proves that I’m not insane for claiming that for years.
“But Stallion, it’s so hard to do the things I want to do without apps from the Google Play Store or without Google Docs, etc.“. Okay, I totally get that. But that’s a lot different than saying that I’m ridiculous for making the claims about Google that I do. It’s tough, you can’t even really get the phenomenal Signal messaging/calling app without the Google Play Store without putting in some work. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to have a “DAPS-compatible” device. But then real privacy, anonymity, and security isn’t easy, and if it were, it would likely have some kind of diminishing returns.
I’m not judging anyone for not wanting to “go all the way” with this sort of thing. I just want people to understand the reality of the situation, and to understand that the Dark Android Project isn’t some privacy-fetish, it’s based on well-known problems and uses fairly time-tested methods.
But what do I think of CopperheadOS? Copperhead has made it clear that CopperheadOS only works–and will continue to only work–on Nexus devices. And that’s fine (I only hope they’ll add the Dark Android favorite 2013 Nexus 7 to the list of compatible devices). Someone recently asked me what the best tablet they could buy in the $250-$350 range was, and I quickly replied with the Nexus 9. If you like what CopperheadOS has to offer–and I certainly do, particularly since it’s totally open source–the Nexus 9 is one of the compatible devices. And Copperhead claims that as long as a certain Nexus device is still AOSP-compliant, they will continue to make it CopperheadOS compatible, so the Nexus 9 is a great device to jump on if you want to try out CopperheadOS (or the Nexus 5 or 5X).
Personally, I love having as many alternative Android ROMs as can be made. Let’em all loose, install F-Droid on them (the alternative to the Google Play Store for apps), and go to town. And anyone trying to wrangle Android away from Alphabet/Google (which Google may be abandoning in one for or another in the future, anyways) is damned near-heroic, in my opinion. Something so key to human communication and interaction today–as Android seems to be–should not be under the control of a singular lobbying-fueled corporation of Alphabet/Google’s size.
So CopperheadOS? I like it. Looks good. Try it out. And if you don’t dig it, there are other options out there, and many more to come.