This is one article which I don’t really want to write about, yet it needs to be talked about today as the fight over encryption with smartphones matter. When it comes to smartphones in general, Apple is the king of encryption. When it comes to Android, it’s complicated in that ecosystem.
Apple is currently right at the front of the encryption argument within the last few months. With the San Bernadino shooting leading to a major standoff between Apple and the US Authorities.
As we all show know by now, the FBI wants legal permission to force the company into hacking (I’m using this word loosely) into a dead man’s phone. I am also going to say legally because it’s absolutely insane to believe that the resources of the NSA can’t break into a single device. As we all know also, Apple is saying no to this.
Yet in a somewhat related case, a judge has found in favour of Apple’s encryption stance. The Intercept explained at the time, US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein:
Repeatedly noted that the government could not demonstrate, or even state, that it would be unable to access the iPhone without Apple’s help.
We’re All Behind You
Apple has gain major support from far and wide from people. Companies such as WhatsApp, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter were all quick to show their support and defend encryption — in some ways to help retain customers.
Don’t forget about Google. They also support Apple, but there is one major issue with this and their support, in my opinion. The Google-driven operating system, Android, which supports the majority of smartphones worldwide, is very far from an encrypted haven.
The Wall Street Journal points out that almost every iPhone is encrypted, while fewer than ten percent of the world’s 1.4 billion Android devices are.
That’s because Google went for scale when it developed Android. In return for running some Google programs (Search, Maps etc), manufacturers have relatively free rein on the software that supports these phones. 400 manufacturers, 4,000 devices, all going their own way.
This is a Two-sided Coin
The latest version of iOS (iOS 9) is their most secure and almost eighty percent of iPhones have updated to that. While Google defends encryption — the latest Android version, Marshmallow, supports far more encryption then older version — very few devices matches that standard.
I know that you can argue that Google Nexus devices are encrypted, and roughly three percent of devices are on Marshmallow, but pretty much everything else is out in the wild right now with Android.
Security Researcher Andrew Blaich said:
There is a push and pull with what Google wants to mandate and what the [manufacturers] are going to do. People are at the mercy of the larger (manufacturers) like Samsung and LG that are driving the ecosystem.
The majority of manufacturers are afraid of encryption slowing down the operating systems, adding yet another layer of complexity.
Android Security Chief Adrian Ludwig said:
The company aims to eventually mandate encryption on all Android devices as components get less expensive. But eventually is not now.
While the overall support for Apple seems to gather pace on the outside, on the inside, regardless of Google’s best efforts, seem to be pretty happy with the status quo.