How to Encrypt the Data on Your Android Phone or iPhone

Keep the information on your cellphone safe with these easy steps

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Security and privacy are hot topics these days, with big company data leaks and hacking on the rise. One important step you can take to protect your information is to encrypt it. This is especially important for devices that tend to get lost or stolen—such as smartphones.

Whether you prefer Android or iOS devices, you should know how to set up encryption.

Should You Encrypt Your Phone or Tablet?

You already have a lock screen; should you bother with encrypting your mobile device if you don't store much personal information on it?

Encryption does more than bar a person from accessing information on your mobile device. Think of the lock screen as a lock on a door: Without the key, uninvited guests can't come in and steal all your belongings.

Encrypting your data takes protection a step further. It makes the information unreadable—in essence, useless—even if a hacker manages to get past the lock screen. Software and hardware vulnerabilities are always being identified, although they're patched fairly quickly. It's also possible for determined attackers to hack lock screen passwords.

The benefit of strong encryption is the extra protection it provides for your personal information. The downside to encrypting your mobile data is that, at least on Android devices, it takes longer for you to log in to your device because each time you do decrypts the data. Also, after you decide to encrypt your Android device, there's no way to change your mind other than through a factory reset of the device.

For many people, that's worth it to keep personal information truly private and secure. For mobile professionals who work in certain industries—finance and healthcare, for example—encryption isn't an option. All devices that store or access consumers' personally identifiable information must be secured or you're not in compliance with the law.

Here are the steps needed to encrypt your mobile device.

Encrypt iPhone or iPad Data

  1. On your iOS device, open the Settings app and select Touch ID & Passcode.

  2. Enter your passcode.

  3. Select Turn Passcode On, if it is not already enabled.

The PIN or passcode not only creates a lock screen, it encrypts the iPhone or iPad data—but not all of it. The information that is encrypted with this method includes Messages, emails, attachments, and data from certain apps that offer data encryption.

Use a longer passcode, if you can. Adding just two more digits can make your device much more secure.

Encrypt Android Data

On Android devices, the lock screen and the device encryption are separate but related. You cannot encrypt your Android device without the screen lock turned on, and the encryption password is tied to the screen lock passcode.

  1. Unless you have a full battery change, you should plug in your device before proceeding.

  2. Set a password of at least six characters that contains at least one number, if you haven't already done so.

  3. Select Settings > Security > Encrypt Device. On some phones, you may need to choose Storage > Storage encryption or Storage > Lock screen and security > Other security settings to find the encrypt option. 

  4. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the process. 

Your device may restart several times during the encryption process. Wait until the entire process is finished before using it. 

In the Security settings screen of many phones you can also choose to encrypt an SD card.