Decrypting and Encrypting Files On Android Smartphones
The encryption technology today is the standard for security all over the World Wide Web. Every written text or document that is communicated on the web is secured with an encryption technology which provides maximum protection against unethical hacker or attackers. Decrypting/ encrypting files on android phones also ensure the security of the data in case your device is being compromised ever by an online attack or if stolen.
What Is Encryption and Decryption?
But first we have to ask ourselves what encryption and decryption is in order to understand the essence of encrypting our files and documents in our devices and internet. As a mode of security and protection of our personal information, Encryption is the process that involves converting of electronic data that has been loaded in our devices or internet for the purpose of storage or sending into cipher text that cannot be totally understood by anybody unless they are authorized parties. This is with the aim of protecting information that has been decoded into a secret code through encryption.
Decryption is a term that is widely used hand in hand with encryption since in order to retrieve the coded message one has to decrypt the code into logical terms. Thus it is the inverse of encryption. It is with the sole purpose of protecting information that is on the systems and data transferred on the internet.
Apart from security, other purpose of encrypting of messages and documents is to: –
- Authentication- this is where an individual or user who sent the message can be identified. The origin of the message is easily located using decrypting sent data.
- Integrity- encrypting a message or document will help in proving during decryption that it wasn’t interfered with during transfer. It specifically checks whether the content was changed since being sent.
- Non- repudiation- the sender of the message or data can never deny sending the message to another place or receiver.
Some proper examples of devices using this technology are smartphones, modems, smartcards and SIM cards to mention but a few of them whereas protocols that use this technology comprise of SSH, S/MIME and SSL/TLS. This is to encrypt sensitive data to an individual, institution or organization.
It is important to take this measure to enhance privacy of our files.
Types of Encryption Algorithm
When it comes to encryption algorithm, we mainly talk of two main types namely;
This symmetrical key ciphers use the knowledge of secret key for decrypting and encrypting its type of files. One of the mostly used key is the AES. It is important to note that Symmetrical key cipher is relatively faster compared to Asymmetrical.
In this type of encryption algorithm, it makes the use of two but mathematically linked keys, one which is public and the other one private. The public key is a common key among people whereas a private key is more of secret. This assures confidentiality, integrity, authenticity and non-reputability.
On the recent past a major user of an end to end encryption type of way is the widely known WhatsApp application that is used to protect personal conversations amongst people and build a wall against hackers and attackers around.
A core is a part of electronic gadgets that is relative to a processor that is the processing unit which receives instructions and is used to mainly calculate using actions that are derived back from the instructions issued to the system used.
Android core, a default android system among various smartphones has many functions that are to be executed by the installed system and some of the functions are: –
- It is a key part in controlling android run time (ART) that is extremely versatile in processing and controlling computer functions.
- It is also important in data usage control and monitoring where the phone system checks on the usage of data giving alerts and monitoring when it comes to bundle usage and levels.
- It is versatile when it comes to system configuration and settings.
- It is used in debugging of smartphones around.
- It is also an important part of device administration.
This basic android core is versatile since it provides a clear platform for encrypting your entire device as a whole. Android core user permits the user to encrypt the whole data contains within, but in case if someone is looking to encrypt or decrypt certain files on android, you need the assistance by a third party application. These installed/downloaded third party applications are essential in specific documents or files in the system rather than the entire system compared to android core encryption options available with the smartphone. The settings available with these options are also more of generalized rather than to perform a specific function/action required to the specific application, file or document.
Types of Encryptions
So, let us learn today the methods of decrypting/ encrypting files on android smartphones since who knows if our safeguarding wall is ever broken by an intruder from the web. When we talk of encryption of smartphones, there are two main types which are full disk encryption and file based encryption.
Full disk Encryption- android 5.0 and above are the accepted devices manufactured with a full disk decryption. It is a full disk encryption which makes use of a single key protector that is shielded with the device’s password. It involves protecting the entire device’s data. For access it should be noted that one must provide their personal credential.
File based encryption- it is supported mainly by android 5.0 and above in most cases. This is where a specific file is entrusted with a specific key meaning several files might be locked using different keys to decrypt them. The items encrypted can be locked and decrypted independently and another items key cannot be used in this scenario to unlock/decrypt another items data. Such devices supporting multi keys decryption usually have the Direct Boot feature, which allows devices to boot directly to the lock screen hence enabling users to quickly access files and documents. With the introduction of file based encryption it allows the users to use the devices under limited context before the user can provide their credentials to allow them open/use the other protected context in the device. This helps in further protecting private user information.
First we will learn the procedure of encrypting files on android devices.
It should be noted that there are two options in android i.e. encrypting the entire android device and encrypting files option provided by third party applications available.
How to Encrypt Your Devices?
Just to mention on how you can encrypt your entire android device, we would like to preview how it is done in quick and very simple steps provided below;
- Ensure there is enough power left on your phone or try loading it into a charger since the process is usually long and doesn’t need any form of interruption.
- It is also important to back up all your data that is stored in the phone for security purposes.
- After keenly following the above measures, you can go to the phone settings menu, and under lock screen option enter your current password if you had already used any. In the new password you are advised to enter a password that is at least 6 characters long and the use of both alphabets and numbers is emphasized. This is up to a margin of 16 characters as an option of your password.
- After this, head to system option under the Settings and look for the security option then click on the ‘Encrypt Device’ option.
- After selecting encrypt phone to confirm your chosen option, the user will be required once again to provide the password set in the beginning of this process as a way of confirmation.
- After all these procedures are followed, the phone will start decryption automatically and since it usually takes quite a long time, the user is required to be patient as your devices security wall is beefed up. There is an indication of the percentage of files encrypted already to estimate the time remaining for encryption.
After encryption is usually done, the device’s security options might be disabled like the pattern and pin unlock is usually disabled afterwards. It is also important to note that in case one wants to reverse phone encryption without the set password, it involves resetting the entire device in its factory reset default setting. This usually deletes all the files and documents saved in the device and another downside is that the items in the SD card will also be deleted and in most cases the user will be denied option of accessing the SD card since the saved SD card encryption key will also be deleted hence it is very important for the users to decrypt their SD card before taking the option of factory reset.
Now that you know the pros and cons, to factory reset your device:
Head to the ‘Settings’ option in the phone menu, choose ‘Personalization’ option in the sub menu then ‘Backup and rest’ option. After all this is done, choose the option of Factory Data Reset option in order to accept this option and your device’s memory will be cleared.
Encryption Using Third Party Applications for Specific Items
Now moving towards the option of file based encryption done using secondary applications, here are the key steps to be followed using an example for illustration.
In order to begin you need to search for and download file encryption app from the Google play store of whatever makes that suits your requirements. As for me am giving you this guide for encryption by using my favorite Andrognito 2 encryption app. Andrognito 2 is encryption app that uses 256- bit encryption technology in order to secure files and communications sent over the web and stored in android devices. Here are the steps to begin our encryption process:
Launch Andrognito 2 app in your phone.
- On the very initial launching of the app, andrognito 2 will ask for your name and 4 digit passwords to protect your files. So create password and name you can remember and proceed ahead by finishing the step.
- After setting up password and log in name andrognito 2 will require you to setup you secret question and answer. Type the one which you can well remember and tap on the arrow to move on the next step.
- Now you are at the core part of setting up encryption as you will be creating a vault in andrognito 2 where your files will be saved and protected by encryption. To create a vault give it a name on name section and create a 4-digit pin and move on to the next level.
- Over here you can add files on the vault that has been created. You can add multiple types of files in your vault folder such as images, videos, docs etc…
- After adding up your desired files; to check for available encryption types and options, press and hold on any file you want in the vault for the encryption option to appear. From there you can choose either all or specific files to be encrypted. When done with selection, press the padlock icon on the above right side of the app’s menu for the chosen files to be locked up with 256- bit encryption protection.
- Finally, you will see an orange icon on the right bottom side of your screen and a sad smiley appearing with a message, “No files here” which means your encryption process was successful.
This was the method for implementing a high 256- bit encryption protection to your files in this tutorial of encrypting/ decrypting files on android devices. However, the method for decrypting files again with andrognito 2 is quite easier and short.
Decrypting files on android
- Launch andrognito 2.
- Enter your name and a 4-digit password to access protected vault.
- In the vault you should see all the files that are encrypted.
- Press and hold on any file you want to decrypt and press unlock icon on the above right side of the screen.
- Your files will not be successfully decrypted using this method.
Examples of Other Third Party Applications
After mentioning the steps followed in Andrognito 2, here are some of the other examples of applications that can be used in the market for the same or slightly different function. They include;
- SSE Universal encryption application- it has been in use for some time with some few updates once in a while and a unique feature about it is the feature of creating copies of the encrypted files saved on the devices.
- Crypto Ghost file encryption- this is a very helpful application when it comes to sharing of encrypted files with fellow contacts and encryption is done using email and a set password. Also another feature is the ability to generate multiple passwords that can be used for sharing hence hiding the main password.
- Safe Camera- this is an application that is versatile in encrypting photos as soon as they are taken by devices. After being captured, it can be shared by using the master password provided of decrypting them.
So these were the tips on decrypting/encrypting files on Android smartphone. Remember that your files can be compromised since the web is a dangerous place from where un-ethical hackers and viruses can simply infect or corrupt the system. Always make sure you keep your important data encrypted in case your privacy is invaded.
Ii is important to encrypt your saved files and documents on the phone to be more secure and for enhanced privacy options. Apart from the cons mentioned it is advantageous for future purposes since user never know when a hacker or attacker might hit on them hence it important to take pre caution rather than suffering the consequences that follow after wards.