Some Android phones still don’t use full disk encryption

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Last year Google said that it would ensure that new devices coming with Android Lollipop would have to use full disk encryption as standard – meant to ensure that criminals, police, and spy agencies cannot get unauthorised access to your private date.

Android encryption not enforced

In September, Google said that all devices launching with Lollipop pre-installed would have encryption on “out of the box”. The company confirmed this again in October, saying that user data partitions would be encrypted “at first boot.” The most recent first-party Android devices, e.g. the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet, do ship with encryption activated.

Android EncryptionHowever, there are many third party Lollipop based Android devices being launched this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but reports have said that new phones such as the Moto E and Samsung Galaxy S6 are not being fully encrypted automatically.

The reason is that Google looks like it’s altered its policies, saying in the latest Android Compatibility Definition document that new devices must be capable of support full disk encryption and it ideally should be on out of the box, but it’s not yet mandatory and is only expected to be so in “future versions” of Android.

Google may have had to backpedal due to complaints about the Nexus 6 performance – reviews have said that with the disk encryption enabled, it can be slower than the Nexus 5 from 2014. Perhaps this is why Google is postponing mandatory default encryption until the manufacturers have memory and processors that are sufficiently powerful.

Android Encryption Settings

Enable encryption in your phone’s settings.

Apple (iOS 8 has used full disk encryption since September last year) and Google have both said they will improve device security since the hubbub about the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed many devices as being vulnerable to external intrusion. The NSA apparently has methods and programs to collect masses of personal data, even from people who have not been accused of any crimes. In theory, Apple and Google’s encryption are so secure that they can’t even help spy or police agencies break into them.

To turn on encryption on your Android phone, you can find the option in your security settings. Have you turned on full disk encryption on your Android smartphone? Have you noticed any speed reduction? Are you concerned about government agencies and hackers having access to your smartphone?

Let us know in the comments…

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1 Comment

  1. I ran a cpu speed test program on my S4, before and after encryption and there was little noticable difference.

    Does that even make sense? I thought it was decrypting in real time, including the code for the OS and apps???