Android 5.0 Lollipop to Come With New Smart Lock and Other Security Enhancements

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Android 5.0 Lollipop to Come With New Smart Lock and Other Security Enhancements
Google officially unveiled Android 5.0 Lollipop in mid-October alongside its platform lead devices, namely the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player. The Mountain View giant has already revealed the general roll-out plans for Android 5.0 Lollipop which is expected to start in early November.

Many OEM partners including Motorola, Sony, HTC, and LG alongside Google have also confirmed the list of devices expected to receive the Android 5.0 Lollipop update. Since the Android L preview at the I/O developer event in June, Google has added several new features to the final release of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

(Also see: Android 5.0 Lollipop: What's New and Updated)

Now, Google's Lead Security Engineer of Android, Adrian Ludwig in an official blog post has detailed the new security features in Android 5.0 and also claims, "When it comes to security, Lollipop is the biggest update for Android to date."

With the update, the Mountain View giant is focused on addressing vulnerabilities present in lost or stolen devices, apart from providing encryption by default and better protection against malware. Ludwig claims one of the most important Android device security features is a screen lock, which many users skip in order to conveniently and quickly access their devices.

To help ensure users utilise the screen lock on their Android devices, the company has introduced a Smart Lock feature in Android 5.0 Lollipop that allows users to secure their device by pairing it with a trusted Bluetooth or NFC device like a wearable, a tag, or even their car. Also included is a face unlock feature, that continually scans the user's face instead of analysing a snapshot at the moment of unlocking. Ludwig says, "We're making it easier than ever with Smart Lock, which lets you tell your phone to unlock using Bluetooth pairing, NFC, or simply your smile-faster than before."

Additionally, Android 5.0 Lollipop's lock screen displays richer notifications, and users can view and respond to messages directly from the lock screen, allowing them to leave the screen lock enabled for longer. With the new version, users will be able to view or dismiss any notifications without moving away from an activity.

Google has now introduced an automatic or default phone encryption for new Android devices. Ludwig details, "Full device encryption occurs at first boot, using a unique key that never leaves the device." Notably, the company launched the encryption feature on Android three years ago; however, the feature has only now been made default for newly activated Android devices. Users updating to Android 5.0 Lollipop will have to turn on device encryption in settings.

Ludwig explains to Techcrunch that the unique key is embedded in the device unlock password, and with newer Android devices (including Nexus) a physical secure element that stores the key is present onboard that remains isolated from the rest of the system.

Lastly, Ludwig talks about Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) that he believes "pushes enforcement of the Android security model further into the core of the OS and makes it easier to audit and monitor so there's less room for an attack."

Google is bringing SELinux Enforcing mode with the Android 5.0 Lollipop for all apps on all devices, and as TechCrunch notes, the SELinux feature essentially brings more visibility to the sandboxing process when checking for suscpicious activity. Sandboxing technology is frequently used to test unverified programs which may contain a virus or other malignant code, without allowing the software to harm the host device.

Commenting on the broad security changes in Android 5.0 Lollipop to TechCrunch, Ludwig adds, "Our goal with the security model of Android is that you should never have to care, honestly. I don't think it's realistic that the average person should think about security."

Apart from security features, other notable features Android 5.0 Lollipop brings include a cleaner, flatter design with a more fluid interface and animations. There is a new 'Quick settings' menu that has been revamped, and includes new controls like flashlight, hotspot, cast screen controls and more. Android 5.0 Lollipop also comes with an opt-in kill switch dubbed 'Factory Reset Protection', which will allow users to wipe out the device's data on will. There is the new Messenger app; a guest user mode with custom options for access; and screen pinning that lets users fix in place the screen that's displayed without allowing guests to go further. Google has also added a new battery saver feature to Android 5.0 Lollipop, claiming to extend device battery life by up to 90 minutes.

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