Android encryption is now said to be tougher to crack than Apple’s iPhone, a huge change compared to just 12 months ago…
Bombings. Shootings. Terror networks. They happen all too often, and phones – iPhones and Android phones – are usually intrinsically linked with them in some way. Everybody uses phones. Even terrorists. And for this reason, the US government is very keen on getting backdoor access to Apple and Google’s operating systems.
But neither Apple and Google will play ball, and this makes life for federal law enforcement agencies difficult when trying to extract data from seized phones – notably iPhones. Encryption is key for privacy and data, so Apple and Google refusing to give in to authorities is important – no government should be able to access your phone on a whim. That’s not cool and everybody loses.
Why Phone Encryption Matters
The idea that the government cannot access iPhones or Android phones is laughable. The feds have the people, the tech, and the expertise to hack into almost any phone, though it isn’t exactly simple. Not so long ago, Apple’s iPhones were the hardest to crack on account of Apple’s encryption of iOS.
However, according to an interview with a forensic investigator, the US government now has more trouble with Android phones, whereas before it was only Apple’s iPhone it had issues with. Here’s what he had to say on the subject: “A year ago we couldn’t get into iPhones, but we could get into all the Androids. Now we can’t get into a lot of the Androids.”
The investigation, led by Vice, looked at Cellebrite, a US company the US government uses to access seized iPhones and Android phones. According to the data, Cellebrite’s software can be used to hack into pretty much any iPhone, pulling data about its GPS records, messages, call logs, contacts, and data from apps such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
But this same software is now struggling to do the same with Android phones. According to the report, the tool could not access anything on the Huawei P20 Pro, nor could it access certain elements and data on the Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S9, leaving Kiser to conclude that phone companies are now actively making it harder for law enforcement to access data on their handsets “under the guise of consumer privacy”.
iPhone 11 Pro Encryption Can Be Bypassed
But just because certain phones could not be accessed with Cellebrite’s cracking too does not mean they’re 100% safe. The technology that powers the tool, like smartphone tech in general, is constantly being improved – it’s not a static standard. New phones create new problems but none are infallible. For instance, Vice notes that Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, could be accessed by the tool.
And if it couldn’t be accessed, other tools – tools that aren’t in the public domain – are probably used alongside it to access the desired information. It’s also worth remembering that it isn’t just the US government that is looking into this kind of thing; you have millions of hackers and scammers around the globe looking at ways to find exploits in Apple and Android phones. However, as it stands right now – at least according to Vice’s information – it is Android encryption, not iPhone, that is the most difficult to crack.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.