Professionals say Android phones are easier for police to crack than iPhones


As the Federal Bureau of Investigation goes head-to-head with Apple over encryption, a series of professionals outline why Google’s OS of choice, Android, is easier for police to crack.

A report from CNN outlines why Android, when directly compared to Apple’s iOS platform, is easier for police to crack. The report outlines information gathered from a variety of areas, including Apple and Android security manuals, mobile software developers, and cybersecurity professionals. The report states that Apple’s devices are encrypted by default, but that “only a fraction” of Android-based devices share the same feature.

It’s not a secret that Android has technically had options for encryption dating back to 2011, but that the feature was hidden within the Settings app, and not necessarily easy to find for someone that wasn’t outright looking for it. In 2014, though, Google started asking new Android device owners if they wanted to encrypt their device while the initial setup process was underway.

According to the report, that means that while technically 97% of Android devices offer encryption, fewer than 35% of those devices offered a prompt to encrypt their handset while they were setting it up.

Compare that to Apple, in which 94% of iPhones in the wild are running versions of iOS 8 or iOS 9, both of which are encrypted right out of the gate by default.

However, the customization of Android does leave the possibility that it can actually be more secure than iOS, including the option to install a password to access a particular messaging app:

“Google’s operating system also starts up only after the phone’s owner enters a passcode. That’s not true for the iPhone, which starts up as soon as you hit the power button. That’s an important detail: When confronted with a locked iPhone, police can take it to a trusted Wi-Fi connection and potentially copy the phone’s contents to iCloud on Apple’s computer servers, where investigators can then comb through the data. Android phones won’t back up to the cloud until they’re unlocked.”

Both iOS and Android offer self-destruct mechanisms that, if a password is entered incorrectly a set amount of times, the data on that handset will be wiped completely. For iOS, that limit is 10 failed tries. For Android, it’s 30 failed tries.

With Apple and the FBI locked in a massive battle over encryption, and with Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai offering support for Apple, this is one debate that won’t be going away anytime soon.

[via CNN Money]