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Android encryption is safe, and if the latest reports from cybersecurity companies are anything to go by, the most secure encryption options on a smartphone. However, they’re still not foolproof, and you should beware of their minor disadvantages.

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How Good Is Android Encryption?

Over the years, the media has generally portrayed the Android operating system as the most insecure, at least for phones. Years later, is Android still the operating system of choice for spooky hackers willing to have a dig at sensitive information on smartphones?

If data from cybersecurity agencies and the law enforcement agency is anything to go by, not anymore. There have been indications that Android encryption has grown somewhat stronger than anything you can find on iOS right now.

According to reports, Cellebrite, a firm that helps the government and law enforcement break into smartphones, its cracking tool is capable of compromising any iPhone’s defenses up to the iPhone X. That is a pretty impressive feat, given that iPhones are generally regarded as flawless.

However, the same cracking tool had underwhelming success when tested with flagship Android devices in 2020. It could only extract a painfully limited amount of data from Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels, but they weren’t as lucky with the flagship offering from Huawei.

In short, this data suggests that it’s way easier to get data from the latest iPhones than to crack Android’s encryption. If that is the case, Android’s encryption has found a way to crush iPhones in terms of security.

However, that says very little about the actual power of Android encryption. Firstly, it doesn’t definitively define how strong Android’s encryption can be, and secondly, it’s not updated to reflect the latest realities in cybersecurity.

What Type of Encryption is used on Android?

There are many encryption standards for mobile phones, and the two main mobile operating systems don’t use the same standard of encryption. Here, we’ll look at the types of encryption available for your Android smartphone, and then you’ll learn how to use them.

Full Disk Encryption.

If you’re encrypting your Android phone, you’re most likely using the full disk encryption protocol. It works exactly like it sounds, encrypting every bit of your data available on your phone’s disks.

When you use full data encryption, it will transform all of your apps and files into indecipherable code that can only be unlocked by a key, which can only be unlocked by entering the correct passcode after booting it up. If your device requires you to enter a passcode each time your device turns on, you’re most likely using full disk encryption.

Full disk encryption is famed for being extremely secure. All of your phone’s data, including your contacts, files, alarms, and apps, will be unavailable if you don’t provide the correct key. Even if you found a way to open up your phone, remove the internal disk, and shove it into another phone, it still won’t work.

If you’re willing to use full disk encryption for your Android smartphone, you may be out of luck, depending on what Android version you’re running. While it was introduced in Android 3, it only lived up to Android 10 since it bricks your phone if you can’t remember your password.

Full disk encryption doesn’t have a very huge impact on your performance, as long as your phone isn’t running on a processor from two decades ago. It works entirely with the background without bugging you for any inputs.

File-Based Encryption.

File-based encryption is Google’s solution to full disk encryption when it started to become obsolete. The idea was to replace it with something that’s more in line with the security requirements of today, and it probably worked.

The most obvious difference between file and full disk encryption is that file-based encryption lets you prioritise your most important files and folders. In full disk encryption, however, everything just gets encrypted without any regard for individual files and folders.

Most times, you’re willing to let hackers see your music collection to bring more publicity to your favourite musician. However, you’ll be more reluctant to share health or work-related documents with hackers since that’s meant to be private.

With file-based encryption, you can select to encrypt the folders that carry your private documents, leaving your music collection unencrypted. While this isn’t the biggest strength of file encryption over full disk encryption, it’s the one you’re most likely to notice at first glance.

Also, file-based encryption offers the option to conceal your file’s metadata. That was never an option with full disk encryption since the security standards when it was released weren’t the same as they are now. If you want the best of Android security, you may want to stick with file-based encryption.

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Advantages of Android Encryption

There are a whole lot of security benefits associated with encrypting your Android device, but you don’t know them all. While you may think it only keeps information away from spooky hackers, it does, but in ways in which you don’t see the full picture.

Once you start to see the full picture, you’ll notice that Android encryption has the following benefits, regardless of whether you were using the file-based or full-disk encryption protocol.

Immune to data misuse.

Device encryption isn’t the only way to keep your data secure, but if that data is on your phone, maybe it’s somewhat better to keep it there. You can certainly trust some security companies with their cloud-based security promises, but the fact is that Android encryption remains solid.

If you care to go out of your way to set up encryption on your Android phone, it becomes impossible for any security company or anyone else to mess with it. With this alone, you’re already getting premium services without paying any additional cost.

It’s free.

If you own a PC, you can attest to how much you’re paying to get a program that removes viruses from your computer and encrypts your files. The most annoying part is that these programs do a worse job than your Android phone, but they charge way more.

Instead of paying anything, why not sign up for an encryption solution that’s free forever. It feels good to know your phone is secure without having Google Assistant remind you of a pending bill every other day.

Simple.

If you’re using any external app for your device’s encryption, you’ll have to go many extra steps. Firstly, there is the price you need to pay, and you’ll also have to install some additional apps just to make your device secure.

Can You Use Your Phone if Disconnected?

In my opinion, the opposite of simple should be the process of setting up separate encryption on your Android phone. All of those aren’t worth it; as long as Android continues to offer an encryption option, you should be fine with your files.

Disadvantages of Android Encryption

You certainly don’t think Android encryption is failsafe, do you? Even if it is, some disadvantages may want to make you rethink the whole process.

Here are some of the disadvantages of Android encryption to know before commencing the process. Before reading on, it’s important to know that I mixed up the disadvantages for file and full encryption, but you should know which is for which.

It’s irreversible.

One of the scariest words in English is “irreversible,” and that’s just because it’s irreversible. Before embarking on any process that you can’t reverse, it’s important to think long and hard about if you need it.

The process is somehow reversible but with a factory reset. As long as you’re willing to lose all of the files you’re trying to secure, you can get encryption off your handset.

It impacts phone performance.

If this is the only disadvantage you care about, it’s best to go on with the encryption. While it technically impacts the performance of your device, the impact is so small that you wouldn’t even notice.

If you’re using a post-2015 phone, performance should be the least of your worries when trying to set up something as good as encryption.

References

https://www.hexnode.com/blogs/everything-you-need-to-know-about-android-encryption/

https://www.androidauthority.com/android-encryption-forensics-1078668/