New Cyanogen Accounts bring beefed-up security to the popular Android ROM

The hackers over at CyanogenMod are giving users another reason to consider rooting their devices. CyanogenMod Accounts recently hit the nightly builds of the open source Android ROM, offering a few handy features with more coming soon.

For now, a CyanogenMod Account offers the ability to locate a misplaced device or wipe phone data—including SD cards— via the Web should your phone be misplaced or stolen. The CyanogenMod team says they built end-to-end encryption into the lost phone and remote wipe functionality to keep malicious actors from eavesdropping on any data in transit.

The group also has big plans for future versions of the CyanogenMod Account, including a secure SMS app and integration with CyanogenMod forums.

Why bother?

Remote wipe via CyanogenMod account is a little late to the game. In early August, Google released Android Device Manager for Android 2.2 and up. The new security feature is similar to Apple’s Find My iPhone and can show your phone’s location, ring it on the highest setting for five minutes, or (in the worst case scenario) remote wipe the device.

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It’s not clear if Google’s ADM can also remote wipe your SD card. Google’s blog post only says the service can wipe data “on your device.” We’ve asked Google to clarify and will update this story should the company respond.

CyanogenMod is in good company, however, as even Google’s remote wipe solution came too late. Third-party remote wipe solutions such as Lookout Security and Antivirus and Total Defense Mobile Security have been available via Google Play for some time.

Smartphone vendors are getting in on the action too; In July, Sony released its own solution for Xperia phones called My Xperia that offers location and remote wipe functionality.

But current plans for CyanogenMod Accounts go beyond remote wipe, which could make the Android ROM a more appealing choice for security-minded Android users. A secure text messaging functionality sounds particularly interesting. Developer Moxie Marlinspike, who created on the Android app TextSecure, is developing the new functionality for CyanogenMod.

TextSecure is a popular third-party app that lets you store your texts in an encrypted database and also encrypts texts during transmission to other TextSecure users.

CyanogenMod is taking a relatively slow approach to releasing the first version of CyanogenMod Accounts to give contributors a chance to peruse the code for weaknesses. The team announced the new account feature in mid-August, but it is only coming to the nightly unstable builds of the Android ROM just now.

“We are not going to be shipping [CyanogenMod Accounts] immediately in the nightlies, “the CyanogenMod Team said in an August blog post. “We want to allow those concerned to build, test, and review the code…We look forward to your feedback.”

The CyanogenMod Team did not say when the new accounts feature would make it to the stable version of the Android ROM.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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