Android screen widgets are widely understood

Delete apps with administrator rights

Some apps, no matter how cool at the beginning, later turn out to be a rivet or you notice that you no longer need them. So let's go to the app overview or the settings and delete the app again. But what do you do if the app does not want to be uninstalled?

There are apps on Android that cannot be deleted. These are usually programs that have been built into the firmware by the manufacturer and therefore cannot be deleted. For most cell phones and tablets, these are, for example, Google Play, Gmail and other Google apps, but depending on the manufacturer, other apps such as 7digital or bild.de are also included. You can recognize these apps by the fact that they work even if you boot the phone in safe mode [1]. In addition, you will not find a delete button in the app settings for such apps, only the options Deactivate and Uninstall updates.

In addition, there is currently only one piece of malware that cannot be deleted without root privileges because it exploits a security hole in Android in order not to appear in the list of apps. Fortunately, the Trojan [2] named by Kaspersky Obad.a is not widespread. All other apps can also be uninstalled without root rights if you know how.

Apps as an administrator

Problems are usually caused by the apps that ask to be run with device administrator rights when starting or certain functions. This authorization is required, for example, by security apps that lock the device or want to reset it to the factory settings, such as the Norton Mobile Security app tested by Android users in this issue. But even to change seemingly simple things like the screen lock, an app needs access as a device administrator. The WiFi access to the Eduroam network and most Exchange accounts or the corresponding apps also require device administrator rights.

As with normal apps, device administrators also have different rights. While Shake Me only wants to activate the screen lock, Norton Mobile Security, for example, also requires the following rights:

  • Erase all data
  • Change the password to unlock the screen
  • Set password rules
  • Monitor attempts to unlock the screen
  • Lock the display

In general, it is advisable to always take a very careful look at which app you are granting which rights when requesting activation as a device administrator. Apps that never require device admin rights are, for example, games, widgets, wallpapers, ringtones and launchers. Apps with device administrator rights always have a security reference, in our example Shake Me app it is the activation of the screen lock.

Help, there is no admin!

The concept of device administrators is often misunderstood and implemented differently by Android manufacturers. The most important thing: There is no classic administrator under Android, as you know from Windows, Linux or Mac OS, for example. Only apps are used as device administrators, no people. Another important feature concerns smartphones and tablets from HTC. Here is the menu item under security simply not visible as long as no app has registered as a device administrator. So it is not an error or a problem if this entry is missing from your HTC smartphone, just an indication that you have not registered any apps as a device administrator.

Unlock device administrator

If an app cannot be deleted in the usual way (drag it up in the app drawer, via the Android settings), then switch to the Android settings and search here in the menu security the entry Device administrators. On HTC devices, the entry is completely missing if no app with device administrator rights is activated (see box). You can now find the app or possibly other apps here. Remove the checkbox in front of the entry and confirm the dialog with Deactivate. It must now be possible to delete the app without any problems. If it still doesn't work, please contact us by email at mailto: [email protected] or via Google+ / Facebook. You will then almost certainly have discovered a security problem.

Conclusion

Always be skeptical if an app wants to register as a device administrator. It could also be malware that installs a lockscreen that can only be unlocked against payment. Take a close look during the installation so that there are no nasty surprises when you delete it.