Encryption is a topic that comes up with not only Android, but other smart devices. It’s important to keep your data safe, and it’s important to understand how it works. Encryption ensures that prying hands and eyes won’t access your sensitive data, but what if encryption stopped you from accessing that data?
Android encryption isn’t 100% foolproof, and it even works against the user if they aren’t lucky. The last thing you’ll want to do is factory reset your device because of bad encryption, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. So your Android can hopefully stay safe in the future, let’s go over some of the problems with Android encryption.
More About Android Encryption and How it Works
I won’t spend too much time here about how Android encryption works, but I wanted to address it one more time. We’ve talked about encryption in full here, so please read more about it when you have the time.
After you know the results from when everything goes right, let’s talk about the problems that happen when encryption goes wrong.
What Can Go Wrong During the Encryption Process
While encrypted storage is a requirement on most devices on Android 6.0 and above, it’s instead just an option on devices with earlier firmware. We’ve talked about the process here, and if you want to go through with it, the process can still go wrong if you aren’t careful.
More than a few users have had the encryption screen hang after the phone reboots, or have had the encryption process stall halfway through. Turning off your Android during the encryption process will corrupt your data and force you to wipe your phone completely. This is devastating, so here are a few things to be aware of before encrypting:
- Backup your Android’s important data. If you something does go wrong, you need to make sure you have a backup to load for later. Remember that no matter what precautions you take to avoid an encryption problem, it can still fail. Always backup your Android.
- Charge your phone to at least 80% or higher. I recommend that you get your Android to 100% battery before encrypting, but 80% is as low as I would go for the process.
- Be patient. The encryption process will take at least an hour if not longer, so if you’re worried everything is frozen, please wait a little longer before turning your Android off.
- Performance will be slightly slower after encryption. What you gain in security you lose in speed. Imagine if you started keeping your calculator in a safe, it would take a few extra seconds to get it out each time when you want to use it.
- If your Android is rooted, it’s better to run stock firmware while encrypting. Once the encryption process is done, it’s easy to root your Android again just like nothing has changed.
How Do You Fix a Failed Encryption?
The short answer here is that you can’t. If the encryption process fails at the start, halfway through, or when it’s almost finished, your data is compromised. When your data is compromised, all you can do to fix it is to start over. This unfortunately means the only tool in your arsenal is a factory reset.
A factory reset isn’t the end of the world as long as you have proper backups, but it’s more of your time that’s unfortunately wasted. After you’ve reset your Android, try the encryption process again after restoring your data. Follow the guidelines I set above, and then wait for the process to finish with hopefully no problems.
Android Encryption Security Risks
Now that your Android’s data is successfully encrypted, it sounds like you don’t have anything to worry about anymore. With your data hidden, and locked away behind a password, pattern, or PIN, or even a fingerprint, no one should be able to access it except you.
Unfortunately, there are exploits that take advantage of Android’s encryption system, letting someone brute force their way into your phone. It’s a fault of the qualcomm system, and the way Android handles its encryption, but the specific issue I’m talking about has already been reportedly fixed through patches last year.
So why am I bringing up an exploit that’s already been fixed? Exploits are discovered all the time, but they aren’t always reported on depending on who finds them. It’s important to remember that while it’s important to take security measures like full disk encryption, your data isn’t completely safe.
This isn’t just true for Android encryption, but with any type of encryption, or password system. Because of this, it’s important to have as many security measures as possible in place for anything you deem important.
Android encryption has its problems, and its risk, but as long as you take the right precautions, even the biggest problems aren’t a problem for long.
If you need help recovering information after a bad encryption, or need help with the process in general, please comment about it below!