How to Encrypt Your Android Phone

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With the amount of personal data that a smart phone holds today, losing a phone or getting it stolen can be a disaster. Fortunately, Androids come with a work around for this, called encryption.

Encrypt-Phone

Encryption is easy to implement, but it does have both pros and cons. So we’re taking a look at why you might want (or not want) to encrypt your Android, and how exactly to go about it.

What is Encryption?

In very basic terms, when you encrypt your phone you put all your data into code. Your phone then stores your data encoded, and in order to access something, it will need to be de-coded.

Simply entering your password, pattern or passcode will de-code your data so that you can say, read your emails or access a phone number. But if someone doesn’t have the appropriate password they won’t be able to read your info. Even if an unscrupulous thief manages to bypass the passcode lock on your phone, all he will find is a mass of unreadable, scrambled data inside.

The Pros and Cons of Encryption

The pros of encryption are rather obvious: your data is far, far safer. Think about the normal smart phone and what it contains. Family phone numbers, banking apps and financial info, social media accounts, emails. All of these are things that, should they fall into the wrong hands, could be used against you.

In the past, encryption was used mostly for businesses that dealt with sensitive data. However, with the rising trend for identity theft, and the tendency of most of us to keep important data on our mobiles, encryption has become more and more popular with personal users. So popular, in fact, that Google have built an encryption system into Android, so anyone can use it free.

There are downsides, however encrypting your phone can result in slower performance. This is simply because your phone needs extra time to de-code data before presenting it to you, meaning your mobile might not be quite as fast as before. Secondly, encryption is one way only. Once your data is encrypted, it’s encrypted.

The only way to make all your data un-encrypted is to factory reset your phone. That means that if you forget your passcode or password, you won’t be able to access your data at all. So you’re going to have to be careful here, and make sure you really want to do this before continuing. (As an additional note, if you have rooted your Android, you’ll need to temporarily un-root it in order to enable encryption, you can go back and root again later).

Before We Begin…

Before you get started, it’s worth knowing a few things. Firstly, this will take a while. Encryption tends to take around an hour or so, depending on how much data you have stored on your phone. You’re free to go and do other things whilst your phone is encrypting, but you WON’T be able to use your phone at all during this time. Secondly, you’ll need to plug your phone in to a charger (the process won’t work otherwise) and you’ll need to be at at least 80% charge before Android will allow encryption to start.

WARNING: Do NOT interfere with the encryption process once it has begun. Simply don’t touch your phone until it has finished. Don’t answer calls, don’t check messages, nothing. If you interfere with the process you stand a good chance of losing ALL your data!

WARNING (Part 2): We’ll repeat ourselves, if you forget your password, pattern, or passcode when your phone is encrypted there will be NO way for you to get your data back. Everything on your phone will be stuck in garbled encryption and you will NEVER be able to read it again. You’ve been warned. Choose something easy to remember, tell a trusted friend, do whatever you have to do, but don’t forget that code.

How to Encrypt Your Android

The actual process of encryption is very simple indeed. Go into the Settings menu of your phone, select Security, then choose the Encrypt Phone option (be aware that wording might differ slightly depending on your phone model, so choose the closest options to the above that you can find).

You should then get a warning that tells you all the things that we’ve just told you about the encryption process, so you can press Agree or Understand to continue. And… you get another warning (Google like to make sure you know what you’re doing), so press Agree, Continue, Understand or Encrypt (whichever you’re presented with).

Now the waiting game begins. Your phone will switch off, then switch on again, and you should get a progress status on screen. Feel free to go watch some TV, grab a beer, anything to pass the time. Just DON’T touch your phone. You’ve got a good hour of waiting here, so be patient. If you have a lot of data stored, you might have a much longer wait, so don’t worry.

Once your phone has finished you should get the normal passcode/password/pattern prompt to enter your phone, and the encryption process is now finished. However, there is one more thing that you should do. Head back into the Settings menu, choose Security, then choose Screen Lock. You’ll be presented with a list of options to secure your phone (swipe, passcode, pattern etc.).

You probably already have one of these enabled (and if you don’t, enable it now or else all your encryption is worth nothing, since your phone will de-crypt as soon as someone easily opens it with a swipe). Even if you already have an option enabled, press on that option and ensure that the option for “Require passcode/pattern to start device” option is checked. And now… you’re done.

If you keep sensitive personal data on your smart phone then encryption is the smart move, as long as you can remember your passcode, that is. Sure, it’s going to take a little time, but the process is simple and requires no technical know how at all. And should anything ever happen to your phone, you’ll know that your data is as safe as houses.

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Vishal Gaikar

Article by Vishal

Vishal Gaikar is a professional blogger from Pune, India. If you like this post, you can follow him on Twitter, also you can add him on Google+.

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