Android L Promises to Keep Your Data Safe

by Jeff Wiener on September 23, 2014

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us to see that following any sort of well-publicized mobile security breach that distinct patterns of behaviour on both the parts of mobile tech companies and mobile users emerge, patterns that respectively blend added security and concern with renewed apathy and ignorance.

The cycle, at its most basic, is this: Some industrious hacker finds a way to expose a vulnerability in either a newly released or legacy piece of mobile software, accessing personal data that leaves many users feeling vulnerable and exposed. Those users, in turn, begin to clamour that it wasn’t their fault for not upgrading or using the available security measures, pressuring the tech companies to increase security measures. Invariably said security measures are indeed bolstered, leaving users once again feeling naively secure, assured that those compromising selfies are once again safe. Given that all mobile security measures aren’t foolproof, however, the cycle invariably continues.

So it is with Google’s latest announcement of Android L, the latest upgrade to the search engine giant’s popular mobile platform that will mirror the security enhancements made by Apple earlier this month with iOS 8. But while encryption now comes standard with Android L, users should never think they’re 100 percent safe, as there’s always a chance that our data will be exposed.

Now before you think Android is some exponentially safer than it has been, the reality is that encryption security measures have been available on Android for some time now, but only as an option, meaning users needed to activate the security to benefit from it. The problem with such enhanced security, however, has often been the added drain on the battery, a downside many users simply weren’t willing to endure. With enhanced processors and streamlined software now available though, Google is confident such concerns can be assuaged.

The difference with Android L, as I mentioned, is that for the first time enhanced encryption comes standard, enabled by default on all devices running this latest platform. The goal, as it was with Apple, is to mitigate user error as much as possible, making it brainlessly easy to enjoy the maximum amount of security possible.

The aim such increased security efforts isn’t random hackers, however, but instead as a response to the ongoing NSA data privacy scandal, as Android’s encryption efforts mean that encryption keys are not stored on the device, meaning they’re not available to give to snooping government agencies. This technology is nothing new though, as not only has Android done this for several years, but Blackberry effectively pioneered the practice more than a few years ago.

There is a downside to making security increasingly foolproof, though, as it means that if a user forgets their passcode not even the manufacturer can help restore the device. Add that to the existing concerns about added drain on the battery and users will likely still be wary of the greatest protection mobile devices can offer.

The fact of the matter is, though, as independent mobility analyst Michael Morgan explains, that “all security can be hacked. It is not always easy, but if a talented, motivated hacker can get to your device, they will eventually be able to get to your data.” The ultimate purpose of security, therefore, is to make it not worth the effort for hackers to invest the resources to crack your device, part of an “endless war,” Morgan goes on to say, “where the hackers find quicker and cheaper ways around the security system and then the security experts invent ever-more-powerful protection methods.”

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