We've been providing on-device updates (that is to say: no flashing required) to users in the Foxfood program for nearly 6 months now. These updates are intended for users who are officially part of the Foxfooding program, but the way our update system works means that anyone who puts themselves on the right update channel can receive them. This makes things tough for us, because we'd like to be able to provide official Foxfooders with some extra bits and we can't do that while these populations are on the same update channel. Thanks to work that Rob Wood and Alexandre Lissy are doing, we'll soon be able to resolve this and get Foxfooders the bits they need to do the best possible testing.
To make this possible, we've implemented a short term solution that lets us only serve updates to official Foxfooders. When landed, they will send a hashed version of their IMEI as part of their update request. A list of the acceptable IMEI hashes will be maintained in Balrog (the update server), which lets us only serve an update if the incoming one matches one of the whitelisted ones.
To really make this work we need to detangle the current "dogfood" update channel. As I mentioned, it's currently being used in two distinct populations of users: those are part of the official program, and those who aren't. In order to support both populations of users we'll be splitting the "dogfood" update channel into two:
- The new "foxfood" channel will be for users who are officially part of the Foxfooding program. Users on this channel will be part of the IMEI whitelist, and could receive FOTA or OTA updates.
- The "dogfood" channel will continue to serve serve OTA updates to anyone who puts themself on it.
To transition, we will be asking folks who are officially part of the Foxfooding program to flash with a new image that switches them to the "foxfood" update channel. When this is ready to go, it will be announced and communicated appropriately.
Big thanks to everyone who was involved in this effort, particularly Rob Wood, who implemented the new whitelisting feature in Balrog, and Alexandre Lissy and Jean Gong, who went through multiple rounds of back and forth before we settled on this solution.
It's worth noting that this solution isn't ideal: sending IMEIs (even hashed versions) isn't something we prefer to do for both reasons of user privacy and protection of the bits. In the longer term, we'd like to look at a solution that wouldn't require IMEIs to be sent to us. This could come in the form of embedding or asking for credentials, and using those to access the updates. This type of solution would enhance user privacy and make it harder to get around the protections by brute forcing.