By Joe Levi | February 4, 2014 2:17 PM
You’re out on the town, you’re having fun, and your smartphone is the furthest thing from your mind — until you get home and check your pockets, and it isn’t there. It’s happened to the best of us, even some important people at Apple have left their super-secret prototype phones in bars.
Though your device may be lost, there is something you can do to make sure your private information isn’t compromised. Here’s how you can use encryption to make your Android a little bit more secure just in case it gets lost somewhere along the way.
We do a lot on our smartphones and tablets. From phone calls and texts to emails and social networking. Each of those items travels across a network — your device is just an end-point. When we talk about encryption, a lot of people might immediately assume we’re talking about secure communications.
While that’s a laudable goal, we’re not there yet. Encrypting email, texts, and phone calls on any smartphone platform isn’t a reality for the masses yet. Sure, if you’re skilled enough you can set up encrypted communications on your own device, but until everyone in your social circles is set up to do the same, it’s only half of the equation.
Instead, we’re talking about how to encrypt your Android-powered smartphone or tablet so if it gets lost, stolen, or seized, there’s a greater chance that your data will remain secure.
How-to Encrypt your Android
The first step that you need to take to secure your Android is adding a pin or password to your login sequence. Personally, I find this invasive and I hate doing it. However, I’m sure I’d hate my personal information being violated even more. The cost of this inconvenience is worth the benefits of dissuading intrusion.
To set up a pin or password, open your settings and tap on Security. Under Screen Security, add a Screen Lock. Once you’ve done that, to lessen the inconvenience of inputting it all the time, I’ve set “Power button instantly locks” to unchecked, and “Automatically lock” to “5 minutes” after the devices goes to sleep (or after I’ve pressed the power button). Yes, that opens a window of time through which an invasion could be made, but in my use it’s been adequate. You’ll want to evaluate your own situation and circumstances and set those accordingly.
Next, from the Security settings, tap on “Encrypt phone”. This will encrypt your accounts, settings, downloaded apps, media, and other files. Once this is done, every time you power-on your device you’ll be required to type a pin or password to gain access to the system. (The pin or password is separate from that which you set up as a screen lock.) This slows down the boot sequence, but not by much, and it doesn’t slow down waking your device, or even your everyday operations.
The process to set up encryption will take a while. On my 2013 Nexus 7 it took around 45 minutes, but it could take an hour or more. Also, you’ll need to be fully charged and plugged in during the process. You don’t want the encryption process to be interrupted part way through. Also, device encryption is a one-way street. Once you’ve set it up there’s no going back — unless you factory reset your device.
Another item of note: I was unable to complete the process on my stock (but rooted) Nexus 5. Whether this is a root problem, or the custom Kernel I’m running, I don’t know, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re an Android Power User™.
Does it take a while to set up? Sure. Is booting more cumbersome than it was before? Yup. Is your private information worth the inconvenience? Absolutely.
Stay safe out there!