It has been revealed in a document prepared by the New York District Attorney’s Office that Google has the ability to bypass device passcode of devices running older versions of Android if it’s forced to do so by a court order. Given the fragmented nature of Android this means that nearly 75 percent of all Android devices are susceptible to this, investigators would freely be able to examine all of the data on the device as they would no longer be locked out of the device by a passcode.
The document sheds light on the use of full disk encryption and the challenges that poses to law enforcement who seek to obtain data from passcode locked devices.
Devices that are on Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher are protected against this since they use full disk encryption, though the feature is normally turned off by default and has to be manually turned on from the settings, but then the device is safe from remote reset by Google.
For devices running older versions all law enforcement needs to do is come up with a search warrant and court order instructing Google to assist them in obtaining data from the device. Google can then remotely bypass the passcode allowing investigators to gain access.
The report compares this against iOS, Apple can’t remotely bypass the passcode of any device running iOS 8 or higher, and also enables full disk encryption by default.