Apple’s fight with the FBI may be over for the time being, but this high-profile fight about user privacy and state security may have puzzled some smartphone users. When is an iPhone or Android device encrypted? And how does one go about securing the data on them?
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It’s pretty simple actually: as long as you set up a password or PIN for the iPhone or iPad’s lockscreen, the device is encrypted. Without knowing the access code, nobody can unlock it, which means your personal data including photos, messages, mail, calendar, contacts, and data from other apps, is secured. Sure the FBI can crack some iPhones, but only if they’re included in criminal investigations, and only if the recent hacks work on all iPhones out there.
If you don’t use a lockscreen password, you should do it right away. Go to Settings, Touch ID & Passcode, tap on Turn Passcode On and enter a strong passcode or password.
As CNET points out, things are a bit more complicated on Android.
The newer the device, the easier it is to get it done. In this category, we have Nexus devices, the Galaxy S7 series, and other new handsets that ship with Android 6.0 preloaded. Just like with the iPhone, go to the Settings app to enable a security lock for the screen, and the phone is encrypted.
With older devices, the encryption procedure is a bit more complex, as you’ll also have to encrypt the handset manually. You’ll even have to do it with newer devices, including the Galaxy S6 and Moto X Pure. Go to Settings, then Security then Encrypt phone. While you’re at it, you may want to encrypt your microSD card as well, so data on it can be read on other devices – do it from the Security menu, then Encrypt external SD card. Once that’s done, you will still need to use a password for the lockscreen.
CNET says there are reasons you should consider not encrypting your Android device, like the fact that a device might take a performance hit when encrypted. The performance drop may be barely noticeable on new devices, but older models and low-end handsets could suffer.