First of all we need to understand that what exactly encryption is and what are its pros and cons. Device encryption is not a one stop solution for protecting all of the data and information especially when you are ending data over to the internet.
What device encryption actually does is convert all the data into a form which can only be decrypted by correct credentials. This goes above and beyond a regular lock screen password, as data can still be accessed from behind this screen with some specialized knowledge and use of recoveries, bootloaders, or the Android Debug Bridge.
Once your data is encrypted, your music, photos, apps and data can’t be read without first unjumbling the information using a unique key. There is a lot going behind the curtains where a user password is converted into a key that is stored in a “Trusted Execution Environment” to keep it secure. This key is required to encrypt and decrypt the data.
Which basically means that if your phone falls into the wrong hands they won’t be able to access the data unless they know the password.
Couple of things to remember are that opening up encrypted files requires additional processing power which can take a toll on your handset’s performance. Memory reading speeds can be a lot slower on older devices, but the performance hit in the vast majority of regular tasks is only very minor, if even noticeable at all.
Also, some smartphones will offer an option to remove encryption from your handset. Encryption is a one way only process for most smartphones and tablets. If your handset doesn’t offer an option to decrypt the entire phone, the only option is to perform a complete factory reset that removed all of your personal data from the device. So check this out with your manufacturer beforehand.
Encrypt my device
Device encryption works pretty much same in all Android devices but the enabling method has changed slightly throughout the years.
Android 5.0 or higher
For Android handsets and tablets running Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer, you can navigate straight to the “Security” menu under settings. Getting here might be slightly different depending on your OEM, but with stock Android this can be found under Settings > Personal > Security.
Here you should see an option to “Encrypt phone” or “Encrypt tablet”. You’ll be asked to plug your phone in to charge while the process takes place, just to make sure that your phone doesn’t shut off and cause errors. If you haven’t done so already, you will be prompted to set lock screen PIN or password, which you will need to enter when you turn your phone on or unlock it in order to access your newly encrypted files. Be sure to remember this password.
Android 4.4 or lower
If you’re running a handset with Android 4.4 KitKat or lower, you will have to setup a PIN or password before starting up the encryption process. Fortunately this is simple enough, head on over to Settings > Security > Screen Lock. Here you can either pick a pattern, numbered PIN, or mixed password for your lock screen. This will be the same password used after encryption, so make a note of it.
Once that’s done, you can go back to the Security menu and hit “Encrypt phone” or “Encrypt tablet.” You’ll need to have your phone plugged in and read through the warning messages, and you will almost certainly have to confirm your PIN or password one last time before the encryption process starts.
Encryption process can take up to an hour depending upon how powerful your handset is and the amount of data you have saved on it.
Back in the Security menu, you will also likely spot an option to encrypt files on your microSD card as well. This is a recommended step you want to keep all of your data secure, but isn’t really necessary if you’re just using your microSD card to save music or films that aren’t particularly personal.
There are a few caveats here too. Firstly, you will no longer be able to use your microSD card with other devices without completely removing the encryption first, as other phones or computers won’t know the key. Although an encrypted microSD card is still completely transparent to move files to and from over USB, just so long as you access the encrypted files from the phone used to encrypt it. Furthermore, if you reset your device before selecting decrypt then the encryption key will be lost and you won’t be able to gain access the secure files on your microSD card.
And you’re done
That’s it, is really is that simple to encrypt Android devices and is a great way to keep your data a lot more secure. There are minimal trade-offs in terms of performance, but any differences should be very hard to notice on modern handsets.
If you don’t prefer the above method there are also many apps available on Google Play which you can download and get your phone encrypted namely:
SSE – Universal Encryption App
Crypto Ghost- File Encryption
Safe Camera – Photo Encryption
Try these apps and see which method / app floats your boat.