Today, Android is a popular mobile Operating System in the market but a few years back when I first purchased an Android device, things were different. It was the time when featured phones are still ruling the roost and I was the one with an Android in the hand and a desire to explore its depth. But as you can expect, there was a little development support in the Internet forums you could get and the rest should be figured out on our own.
USB Debugging was my first lesson in Android which is an easy option to overlook but it’s quite important while connecting your Android device to PC. Over the years, my understanding on USB Debugging has taken various turns and today I will give a brief introduction of what is USB Debugging, what can it do when enabled and should you enable it always or just on-demand.
Before we begin, here’s how to enable USB Debugging on your Android device.
Open Settings » Select Developer Options » Tick the USB debugging (or Android Debugging) check box.
If you couldn’t see the Developer Options on your device, you probably haven’t enabled it. Click the below link to learn how to enable Developer Options on your device.
What is USB Debugging Mode?
USB Debugging mode is a debugging option available in the Developer Options of Android settings which is used to debug your Android via USB connection. The primary function of the USB Debugging mode is to establish a connection between an Android device and a computer with Android SDK (Software Development Kit), which is a development platform for developers to design and debug Android apps and mods.
An Android developer creates apps or mods using Android SDK on PC and dumps them to either an emulator or a live Android device for testing. USB Debugging is the option that enables developers to transfer, test & debug their apps on an Android device connected to the PC via USB. So, USB Debugging mode just establishes a connection for deeper level actions and nothing more.
Most of the novice Android users might get a feeling that this is a pro-level task and shouldn’t be messed with, but a little tap on this option would unleash the depths of Android way more than you could imagine. It is the most commonly used option in your device while getting your hands dirty with tinkering and stuff. However, you need to know a bit more about the uses and consequences before you enable this option on your device.
Why do we need to Enable USB Debugging?
So, we’ve seen that USB Debugging is a must for developers to debug their stuff, but why a normal Android user need to enable USB Debugging on their device? Well, there are so many situations where you will need to enable USB Debugging on your device. Here are few of the scenarios where you will regret if you haven’t enabled this option:
- Any Android toolkit would require USB Debugging enabled on your device, without which the tool can’t send commands and receive responses from your device.
- Without enabling USB Debugging, you can’t get the system dumps or other files from your device which are required for developing mods or ROMs.
- In case of SystemUI failure after installing a mod, you can simply push the backed up file via ADB but only if you have enable USB Debugging.
- Additionally, you can unbrick a messed up device, take screenshots while in recovery, and debug mods, kernels by taking logs.
- If you’re a bit geeky, you can bypass Android lock screen security using few commands when you forgot your lock screen pattern and couldn’t be able to recover the OTP from Gmail.
These are just a few cases where you’ll need USB Debugging enabled but it has far more scope. However, USB Debugging is just a port on your device which will allow you to communicate with computer for sending commands. But what if this port is always left open? It’s obvious that it’s a security concern but to what extent?
Should We Always Enable USB Debugging?
As we have already seen, USB Debugging is just like a door to our house and leaving the door open can be dangerous. Most Android users think that there is no confidential data on their device and keep the USB Debugging enabled all the time just as a proactive measure. However, it’s not always about confidential data, anyone can steal compromising files like your photos, personal messages and whatever you have on your device.
There are many tools available online which can be used to exploit your device while you plugin your device to the PC for charging or transferring data. For instance, one can easily download the Whatsapp crypt database and the crypt key from your device and can leisurely decrypt them to view your messages or can simply download all the pictures in your DCIM folder. In such cases, you won’t even know as everything will be done in the background without your notice. Anyone with minimal Linux knowledge can be a potential threat to your privacy when USB Debugging is enabled.
So, we recommend our readers to enable USB Debugging only On-Demand unless you want to get trapped in automatic exploit scripts.
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