How to encrypt an Android device in 5 easy steps

If FBI Chief James Comey knew how easy it is to encrypt Android devices right now, he would not have called Apple and Google’s default phone encryption perilous.

android encryption

Except for crimes of passion, it's doubtful that even semiprofessional criminals would plan a crime using a smartphone unless it was encrypted, because it's just too simple to do. But criminals do make errors in their security discipline that help law enforcement cyber pros catch them. Ross Ulbricht, the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts who allegedly founded the Silk Road marketplace for illegal goods and services, drew the FBI’s attention to himself by soliciting for developers on a Bitcoin community board using his personal email address. FBI Chief James Comey must be hoping to keep his options open to capture those criminals who break with security disciplines and overlook encrypting their smartphones.

Criminals, the paranoid, and those who value their personal privacy don’t have to wait for the Android L to encrypt their Android devices. If the device doesn't have a PIN code or password, one can be set using the Android settings menu. The longer the PIN or password, the better.

Important: Some Android devices, such as the Galaxy S4, can be decrypted. Others, such as the Moto X, require a factory reset to remove encryption.

To get started, go to Settings > Security > Encryption > Screen lock. Select the PIN option and enter a PIN.

100114 image1

The Android device is ready to be encrypted. Use the settings menu to open the encryption screen below by following Settings > Security > Encryption > Encrypt tablet or Encrypt phone.

100114 image2

Enter the PIN or password that was created earlier using the screen below. In this case, a short PIN was used to reduce the time to encrypt the device. A longer, random password would be better in practice.

100114 image3

The Android device needs to be plugged in to a charger or it won't encrypt. Tap the encrypt button.

100114 image4

The PIN or Password is required to proceed to the last step to encrypt the device.

100114 image5

Touch the Encrypt phone button. Depending on PIN or password length, encryption can take up to an hour.

The Android device is now encrypted. Every time the Android device is turned on it will require a PIN or password to start.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10