Online banking, shopping, booking tickets or chatting with friends via messenger apps are the most common activities carried out on a smartphone these days. A lot of users also access their official email accounts on their phones. All in all, if you do manage to misplace your smartphone or it gets stolen, the amount of information anyone with malicious intent will be able to lay hands on is tremendous. This is where mobile encryption can help. Not only does it add another layer of security but makes a phone impossible to unlock without the encrypted passcode.

An encrypted password is basically the alphanumeric password that a user adds while encrypting the phone. In case of the Apple iPhone’s iOS operating system, the features comes built-in, ever since the iOS 8 was rolled out in September 2014. The feature also exists in Google’s Android software, but as a user, you have to enable it.

Why mobile encryption matters

The basic principle behind any encryption is to render all readable data into a format that cannot be accessed unless you have the correct unlock credentials. So, when you encrypt your Android phone, you are basically making every information such as documents, photos, videos, messages and apps stored on a phone unreadable to everyone else, but you. No one, not even the phone manufacturer has the tools to evade encryption passwords. After a few unsuccessful attempts to unlock the encrypted device, the data on the phone will be auto erased. This is one of the reasons why the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) in the US has challenged Apple’s encryption policy in court, because it wants to unlock the phone of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The agency wants Apple to disable encryption features so they can unlock the phone to access potentially useful data on it.

However, do note that encryption only protects locally saved data on the device’s storage itself, and information that is saved on the cloud storage may not get the entire security cover.

How to encrypt your phone

To encrypt your Android phone go to settings>security>encrypt phone. You will be asked to create a password before the encryption process starts. Make sure you create a strong password with multiple character types—numbers, alphabets, special characters and even certain alphabets in upper and lower case. Do not use predictable names or your phone number as your password or the whole process would be wasted. Use multiple characters such as symbols, numbers and letters. In case your phone comes with a finger print sensor, you can also set a fingerprint to unlock the phone. That would save you the task of entering the password again and again. Also, fingerprints are unique, and as secure as a password. No finger imprint or copy of it can fool a sensor. Encryption is a battery intensive task so even if your phone is fully charged, you need to keep it plugged in the whole time.

Encryption takes 1 to 2 hours so do not perform an encryption in the middle of the day or at work as you won’t be able to use your phone during the process. Any interruption or unplugging the phone may result in data loss.

The only drawback of encryption is that it impacts the performance a bit, something that may not be an issue with powerful phones, but any older phone will start to feel the load.