2019 has only just begun and we are already flooded with advancements to blow our minds. The hard-working folks at Google have not forgotten those with cheaper phones either and are working on bringing encryption to everyone. Its name is Adiantum (no, not the fern).
What is this Adiantum anyway?
The brainchild of Google’s Paul Crowley and Eric Biggers who designed it specifically for low-power mobile devices like Android Go phones, smartwatches, TVs, etc.
And while older devices theoretically can use encryption, it usually comes with a heavy cost. More precisely, encryption can hamper their performance by using up all of the system resources, rendering them virtually unusable. Adiantum’s primary objective is to help those devices take full advantage of storage encryption.
Adiantum will bring encryption to all Android devices, regardless of their capabilities. Designed to encrypt the device’s storage, keeping all documents and files safe and private, Adiantum is five times faster than Android’s traditional AES encryption on older devices.
Here is what its creators had to say in the announcement on Google’s blog:
“Adiantum allows us to use the ChaCha stream cipher in a length-preserving mode, by adapting ideas from AES-based proposals for length-preserving encryption such as HCTR and HCH. On ARM Cortex-A7, Adiantum encryption and decryption on 4096-byte sectors is about 10.6 cycles per byte, around 5x faster than AES-256-XTS.
Even though Adiantum is very new, we are in a position to have high confidence in its security. In our paper, we prove that it has good security properties, under the assumption that ChaCha12 and AES-256 are secure. This is standard practice in cryptography; from “primitives” like ChaCha and AES, we build “constructions” like XTS, GCM, or Adiantum.”
If this is too technical for you, here is a simpler definition. Adiantum is a lighter, more efficient yet equally secure alternative to traditional AES encryption. Older phones will get all the security and privacy advantages the newer phones have, without sacrificing performance.
When is it coming out?
Adiantum will officially become a part of the Android platform with Android Q. As a reminder, Android Q is the successor to Android Pie that is coming out later in 2019.
Google’s Director of Mobile Security Strategy, Eugene Liderman, expressed the company’s hope that their newest achievement “will democratize encryption for all devices”. In his company’s view, everyone deserves privacy and security no matter how much they paid for their phone. We certainly hope they will succeed in fulfilling this noble goal.