There’s a lot of serious security in the mobile world, but it’s important to know which features are present and how they work. This article will explore the basic features to protect your mobile device and how encryption is making it hard for law enforcement and third parties to access your data.
What to do?
A few weeks ago, we wrote about how to maintain privacy on your Android device. Encrypting the data is a sensible and necessary step for anyone who does not want Google and other companies to monitor their every move. We had a look at setting up encryption on devices running the Android operating system and also had a look at some of the privacy issues that can arise with this particular operating system.
On Android and iOS, it is also worth encrypting the whole system. This is the default setting on Apple devices anyway, which even the FBI has a lot of trouble with. It recently became quite a legal (and PR) battle when the authorities tried to access a terrorist’s iPhone and get the manufacturer to do it. According to security experts, although they eventually managed to access the data, the FBI did not decrypt it but merely used a brute force attack to crack the password. To guard against similar attacks, use a complex password rather than a short string of numbers.
You can do this by tapping on “Touch ID & Passcode” in the Settings menu and then tapping on the Change Passcode line, where you can choose to use a custom alphanumeric code. A code of sufficient length would take decades to decipher even with the resources of the FBI – and thousands of years for botched hackers. However, anyone interested in our data might still be able to access it through our iCloud backups.
Preventing this is simple: we only use local backups in the iTunes client, which only we can access. And to delete the cloud backup, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage, select your device, then tap Delete Backup. On Android devices, you can turn on encryption in the Security section of the Settings menu by selecting Encrypt phone/tablet. But note that, as with iOS, all your data will be lost if you forget the code.
The FBI is in the news again, this time for demanding that Apple unlock a phone belonging to one of the San Bernadino terrorists. Whilst it is very important to make sure you have secure locks on your device with fingerprint or password locks, or even with an auto-wipe feature, it’s also worth considering encrypting your whole system. If you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone, this is done by default anyway.