Smartphones and other mobile devices are the main source of loss of ordinary data. Mobile phones travel everywhere we go, making them targets for hackers and information thieves. It’s also easy to misplace portable devices and fall into the hands of strangers. With so many passwords, e-mail addresses and contact numbers stored in one place, losing your phone is like losing your identity.
Security measures A good first step to protect against data loss is to prepare a lock screen with a PIN, password, fingerprint or swipe key. This is an excellent deterrent for ordinary thieves, but the data itself is still quite easy to retrieve, even though there is a screen lock. Luckily the Android operating system is equipped with practical security features that can encrypt your device from end to end, locking in personal information making it almost impossible to retrieve. We recommend adding an application to remotely wipe your phone if it’s stolen.
Encrypt an Android phone is very simple and only takes a few minutes to get started. With a little preparation and the right tools, you can lock your device and keep your information safe.
What Does Encryption Do for Android Phones?
The encryption process works like a very complex key and key. Files on your phone are usually stored in raw format, something like a padlock that is not tightened. Anyone can walk around and see the files or, with the right equipment, make copies of themselves. This can even happen behind your screen lock which should be safe!
When you encrypt your cell phone, all data stored on the device is converted to random numbers and letters. Like locking a lock, information is stored in an unreadable state, basically just a stack of meaningless code. However, with the right buttons, the padlock can be opened and converted back to its original format. The only key that works with the key is what is created by your device when you enter your password or PIN during the encryption process.
Encrypted phone stores all data that is not used in a secure format. Nothing is decrypted until you enter your key, and no one can decrypt the files apart from that specific key. This makes encryption a very effective privacy tool that makes stolen data almost useless. It’s not perfect, but it serves its purpose for most users.
Benefits of Android Phone Encryption
Privacy is the number one benefit for encrypting your Android device. Whether you’re worried about hackers stealing information or not strangers unlocking your cell phone, encryption is the answer.
1. Protect sensitive personal information
The cellphone contains a myriad of personal information. Email accounts, passwords, bank logins, contact numbers, browsing history, your home address, and more, all neatly stored in one device. In the case of a malicious attack or a lost device, the amount of data that changes hands can be surprising. With encryption in place, your information is safe no matter what.
2. Protect company data
Do you have an office telephone that contains business contacts or documents? Protecting trade secrets and confidential company data is arguably more important than locking up personal information. If you have a business telephone, make sure it is encrypted, no exceptions.
Weakness Encryption of Android Phones
The privacy provided by full disk encryption is almost a necessity in the world today, but it is not without some minor disadvantages, especially if you are using an older, slower device.
1. Longer boot time
Rebooting an encrypted cell phone takes about twice as long as an unencrypted device, all because of security overhead. You also have to enter your lock screen PIN or password every time you reboot, which can interfere with some users.
2. Slow operating speed
Have you ever noticed your cell phone slowing down when playing certain games or running many applications? This can occur when the device processor is overloaded trying to handle too many tasks at once. Encryption increases the burden on your device’s CPU, which can worsen slowdowns and occur more frequently. The problem is almost not seen on newer, more powerful devices, but the point is if your cell phone is encrypted, you should expect some slowdown.
3. Encryption is not bullet proof
Even with complex lock screen patterns and full disk encryption enabled, it is still technically possible to get data from your device. This method is usually provided for skilled hackers.
4. Full decryption is not really possible
After you encrypt your device, the only way to decrypt the entire disk is to do a factory reset. Make sure your data is backed up externally before encrypting, because there is no undo button for this process.
5. You cannot encrypt a rooting device
If your phone is rooting and you want to encrypt, you must first unroot, then re-root after encryption is complete.
How to Encrypt an Android Phone: Step by Step Guide
Android’s complete disk encryption feature is built into the operating system. To activate it, all you have to do is enter the settings menu and tap through several dialog boxes. Before you begin, make sure your battery is fully charged or you have access to a power outlet. Encryption can take anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour depending on the speed of your cellphone and the amount of data that is encrypted. If you lose power in the middle of a process, you can lose data.
Turn on encryption on Android 5.0 or later:
- Open the menu and tap the Settings icon.
- Scroll down to Security settings.
- Look for the “Encrypt phone” or “Encrypt tablet” option and tap.
4. You’ll be prompted to plug your phone in before beginning.
5. Tap Continue.
6. Enter your password or PIN if requested.
7. Wait for the encryption process to finish.
8. When your device is ready, enter your PIN or password and use it as usual.
Turn on encryption on Android 4.4 or higher:
- Create a PIN or password under Settings> Security> Screen Lock
- Return to the Settings menu and select “Security”
- Look for the “Encrypt phone” or “Encrypt tablet” option and tap.
- You will be asked to enter your phone before starting.
- Tap Continue.
- Enter your password or PIN if requested.
- Wait for the encryption process to finish.
- When your device is ready, enter your PIN or password and use it as usual.
Editor’s note: we use Lenovo Tab 2 TB2-X30F – while we know it’s not an Android phone, everything is similar to a cellphone.
Important: Android Encryption Does Not Encrypt Internet Traffic
The main purpose of encrypting your Android phone is to prevent theft of localized data. The files on your device are stored in a code format, making it almost impossible for someone to take your phone and steal your data. However, as soon as you provide the key and start using the file, the encryption is temporarily canceled. This means that active data that you send over the internet is no longer encrypted, which can harm you.
There is an important difference between encrypting your cell phone and encrypting information that it sends over a wireless connection. If you want to make sure your data stays private after leaving your cellphone, consider using a virtual private network. Android devices are supported by most modern VPN providers, making it very easy to encrypt the traffic passing to and from your phone. With local encryption and VPN active, your data will be safe on your cellphone and on the internet.
Will Encryption Slow Down My Phone?
Regardless of the technology or device involved, encryption almost always slows things down. The process of scrambling data and unlocking it with complex keys requires a lot of time and processing power. The more data involved and the more complex (and secure) encryption, the longer. This applies to CPU intensive tasks as well as simple things like opening a web browser or using an SMS program.
Most modern Android phones and tablets handle overhead encryption without too much trouble, making slowdown minimal and barely noticeable. However, if you have a device that is a little older or often uses heavy CPU applications, you might face some slowness. The only reliable solution for this is to upgrade to a more powerful device.
Encrypt microSD card
Many Android devices display two encryption options in the settings: one to encrypt the phone or tablet, and one to encrypt the microSD card. Most of the personal data is stored on the cellphone itself, but if you are interested in extra privacy, it’s not a bad idea to encrypt both.
The process of encrypting a microSD card is the same as encrypting a cellphone. Tap the option under Settings> Security, enter your PIN or password, connect your device to a power source, then wait for the encryption to finish. Depending on the speed of your cellphone and the amount of data on the card, this can take several minutes to an hour.
Encrypting microSD cards brings several drawbacks. For starters, you won’t be able to use the card on another device unless you decrypt it and format it first. This also means that resetting the phone to factory default will destroy the encryption key to decrypt the card, making the data irreparable.
A fully encrypted microSD card will experience the same amount of deceleration as an encrypted phone. Some users choose to skip card encryption and make sure only non-essential applications access the storage, things like games or utility applications that do not collect or store any personal information. This is a great solution that gives you a decent level of privacy without affecting your routine activities.
Is My Device Encrypted?
Encryption has been an optional part of the Android operating system since Gingerbread 2.3. After Lollipop 5.0, some phones have features turned on right out of the box. After Marshmallow 6.0 was released, many devices made encryption required. However, apart from these steps, only about 10% of Android devices are fully encrypted. That makes many cellphones unprotected in the wild.
If your phone or tablet is new and already has Android 6.0 or better, chances are the entire disk is encrypted before you even turn it on. To verify, simply go to Settings> Security and scroll down to the section that says “Phone encryption” or
Difference Between Encrypting and Setting a PIN or Password Lock
Encryption and screen lock are two separate activities that do not have to be linked together. Just because your phone asks for a PIN, password, swipe pattern, or fingerprint to pass through the lock screen doesn’t mean your data is encrypted. In fact, data can still be accessed with a screen lock in place, all the needs of the intruder is a USB cable and a little time.
Encryption ensures that even if someone gets access to data on your device, they won’t be able to retrieve anything useful. Without the key provided by your password and an Android device that encrypts information, which anyone can take is a mess of numbers and letters.
Can All Android Devices Encrypt?
Not all phones, tablets or devices supported by Android will have full disk encryption as an option. Most Android e-readers, game consoles, and TVs miss features for a number of reasons, the main one being the lack of processing power. This device has a fairly low risk as far as data theft is concerned, so the absence of encryption options is no big deal.
If your phone or Android device does not offer full encryption, you can always download applications that encrypt individual files or folders. See below for recommended program options.
File and Folder Encryption Instead of Entire Device
Some phones do not handle full disk encryption properly. Slowing down can be a serious problem, making it unusable. Luckily there are alternatives on Google Play that allow you to encrypt files and folders individually, giving you some level of privacy without sacrificing ease of use.
If you have encrypted your Android phone, most of the programs below will not be useful for you. However, if you use cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive, downloading the application can provide a little extra privacy when transferring files over the internet.
1. SSE – Universal Encryption Application – One-stop program for all your Android encryption needs. SSE allows you to encrypt individual files and folders, store passwords and text securely, lock photos, and perform other security-conscious tasks such as cleaning the clipboard or generating strong passwords.