How to Encrypt Data on an Android or iOS Device

Keep the information on your cellphone safe with these easy steps

What to Know

  • iOS devices: Open Settings > Face ID & Passcode > enter your passcode.
  • Then, look for Data protection is enabled at the bottom of the screen. If you see it, encryption is on.
  • Android devices: Select Settings > Security > Encrypt Device and follow the on-screen instructions.

This article explains how to encrypt data on your iOS or Android device and how to confirm encryption. It also contains information on why you should encrypt data on your phone or tablet.

Encrypt iPhone or iPad Data

Security and privacy are hot topics with company data leaks, hacking, and ransomware 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 be lost or stolen—such as smartphones. Whether you prefer Android or iOS devices, you should know how to set up encryption.

The iPhone and iPad use file encryption that is activated by default when you set a passcode for your iPhone. Here's how to confirm that it is activated.

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

  2. Enter your passcode.

    Select Turn Passcode On if it is not enabled. If it wasn't turned on, you are walked through setting up a passcode.

  3. Scroll further down to the bottom of the screen and look for Data protection is enabled. If you see it, your iPhone data is encrypted.

    iPhone path to turn passcode on and enable data protection

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

Using a longer passcode with only two additional digits makes your device 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 charge, plug in your device before proceeding.

  2. Set a password of at least six characters that contain 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 on-screen instructions to complete the process.

Your device may restart several times during the encryption process. Wait until the entire process finishes before using your device.

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

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 the 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 your belongings.

Encrypting your data makes the information unreadable—useless—even if a hacker gets past the lock screen. Software and hardware vulnerabilities are constantly being identified, although most of them are patched quickly. It's even 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, it decrypts the data. Also, after you 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 private and secure. For mobile professionals who work in certain industries—finance and health care, for example—encryption isn't an option. All devices that store or access consumers' personally identifiable information must be secured, or they're not in compliance with the law.

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