Running an older Android OS version? Google can access your data

© Elijah Nouvelage
Google can remotely reset phones running versions older than Android 5.0, a report by the New York District Attorney's office says, highlighting how investigators could easily obtain data. Seventy-four percent of all Android gadgets appear to be vulnerable.

If Google receives a court order, they could potentially reset older versions of Androids that are locked using a pattern.

Any devices running on Android 5.0 and newer won’t be accessed, because they have full disk encryption. But that’s only 26 percent of all gadgets, according to data from Android Developer Dashboard. 

The New York District Attorney’s office said that Google and Apple would have to unlock smartphones when presented with a court order. 

However, it would only be possible to do so without the owner’s permission with unencrypted phones.

Since Apple enabled encryption by default in September 2014 with their iOS 8, they can’t access any data on devices without knowing the user’s passcode. Apple can’t remotely bypass passcodes on devices running on iOS 8 or higher.

Android is a different story with more users at risk of their data being accessed. Google has enabled encryption by default only in the latest version of Android 6.0 released this October.

However, Google argues that reports claiming that two thirds of Android devices are vulnerable to remote unlocking are exaggerated.

“Google has no ability to facilitate unlocking any device that has been protected with a PIN, password, or fingerprint. This is the case whether or not the device is encrypted, and for all versions of Android,” Google’s security head, Adrian Ludwig, explained.

READ MORE Beam me up, Google! Tech giant creates prototype of Star Trek ‘communicator’

So if you’re an Android user, and you’re running a version older than 5.0, make sure you enable full encryption instead of using a pattern password, if you want to keep your content out of law enforcement’s reach.

Apple users on iOS 8 or above needn’t worry, but older version users might also want to protect their smartphone content with a password.