How to Encrypt an Android Device

Privacy, Security; two words that you hear a lot these days after the Snowden Incidents and with all the Govt snooping, corporate data mining and all those data leaks like Target and Home Depot. More than ever, protecting your data and privacy should be a top priority to each and every one of us. With new tactics being employed all the time, we have to keep up with the game and encrypting your devices is one way to do just that.

What is Encryption

TechTarget has an awesome article on this.

Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties. The word encryption comes from the Greek word kryptos, meaning hidden or secret. The use of encryption is nearly as old as the art of communication itself. As early as 1900 BC, an Egyptian scribe used non-standard hieroglyphs to hide the meaning of an inscription. In a time when most people couldn’t read, simply writing a message was often enough, but encryption schemes soon developed to convert messages into unreadable groups of figures to protect the message’s secrecy while it was carried from one place to another. The contents of a message were reordered (transposition) or replaced (substitution) with other characters, symbols, numbers or pictures in order to conceal its meaning.

Why Encrypt your phone

As described above, encryption scrambles all data on your phone in an unreadable format so if you loose your phone your data will remain secure. The basics of how this works is that at boot time you will have to enter a password or pin to unscramble (un-encrypt) your phone. If someone does not know your password or pin they cannot access your device nor data. An attacker won’t be able to access the data without the encryption key. with that in mind; if someone really wanted access to your data, they could employ the freezer attack. This basically employs freezing your device’s ram so it takes longer for the encryption key to be erased from RAM. 

If you recall Snowden made light of a little project called Prism, where Verizon and the Govt were working together to allow data mining. That is, they have been going through the call records of Verizon’s approximately 99 million users looking for, well, anything! and if you think that Verizon is the only place this has been happening then I got bad news for you. 

 Some recent legal rulings have suggested that encryption can protect against warantless searches. The California Supreme Court has ruled that police officers can lawfully search your cell phone without a warrant if it’s taken from you during arrest – but they would require a warrant if it was encrypted. A Canadian court has also ruled that phones can be searched without a warrant as long as they’re unencrypted. You may want to do your own searches to better understand these legal items or contact your attorney if you have one.

How do I encrypt my Android

You should have at least a pin, password or swipe pattern or even face or voice recognition setup right? If you are using any lock screen widgets, disable them ASAP; they can disclose your location and other sensitive information about you.

Before we continue

Some forewarning before we proceed.

  • Encrypting will cause your device to work a bit slower, not by too much tho. However, depending on your actual device it may be noticeable. Most newer devices shouldn’t make that much difference.
  • Encryption is one-way so if you loose your key or would like to go back to using a non-encrypted device then you will have to wipe your phone and restore to factory settings.

The encryption process should take about an hour or more depending on how much data is on your device. So, let’s start:

  • Go to Settings
  • Click Security
  • From the options, choose Encrypt Device or Encrypt Phone
    • Note that in the Security settings screen you can also choose to encrypt an SD card.
  • Enter your password (must be at least 6 characters with 1 number)

You’ll see a progress indicator appear. After it’s done, your device’s storage will be encrypted. You’ll have to enter the PIN or password each time you boot your phone or its storage will be unreadable, so don’t forget the password! Android uses dm-crypt, which is the standard disk encryption system in the Linux kernel. It’s the same technology used by a variety of Linux distributions.

That’s it, go enjoy your newly encrypted and secured Android phone.

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