Google officially unveiled a new form of encryption today, designed to secure data stored on lower-end smartphones and other devices with insufficient processing power.
Ensuring that information stored on mobile phones is locked down is a big selling point for people who store personal data on their device. That is why most Android phones have storage encryption enabled as a default feature — in fact, it’s been a requirement of handset makers since Android 6.0. However, an exemption is made for phones with low processing power, which is required to run encryption directly on the device.
For example, Android Go is designed for devices with low-end processors, typically in developing markets, but given many of these devices ship with 1GB of RAM or less, storage encryption is either off by default to improve performance, or not present at all. The ARM Cortex-A7 processor, which some low-end phones use, doesn’t even offer hardware support for Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is used by Android.
And this is where Adiantum comes into play. Adiantum was built to run on phones and other smart devices that “don’t have the specialized hardware to use current methods to encrypt locally stored data efficiently,” according to Eugene Liderman, director of mobile security strategy for Google’s Android security & privacy team. This is more than simply targeting cheap Android phones aimed at emerging markets, however; it’s aimed at any low-power Linux-based device, from smartwatches to connected medical devices.
Data privacy is among the biggest issues of our times, with countless leaks and controversies engulfing all the main consumer technology companies. And that is why all these companies continue to make noises about their positive privacy efforts — earlier this week, for example, Google launched a Password Checkup Chrome extension to help thwart data breaches.
Adiantum has actually been doing the rounds in developer circles for a few months already, and as an open source project it is already available on GitHub — but it seems that Google is now ready to announce it to the world.
“Our hope is that Adiantum will democratize encryption for all devices,” Liderman added. “Just like you wouldn’t buy a phone without text messaging, there will be no excuse for compromising security for the sake of device performance. Everyone should have privacy and security, regardless of their phone’s price tag.”