Story image

A photo still enough to defeat face unlock of many phones

12 Jan 19

Despite almost all smartphone manufacturers bragging about just how secure their ‘face unlock’ feature is, a new study has found many models wanting in security.

Consumentenbond, a Dutch not-for-profit consumer watchdog put a bunch of new smartphones under the pump to test their makers’ claims and see how well the modern biometric authentication method actually worked. As the well-worn phrase goes, a picture says a thousand words.

While details on the methodology of the test are scarce, the results are clear. You can forget the 3D-printed heads or realistic masks, as all it took was a piece of paper with a good quality image of the owner’s face to fool 42 of the 110 smartphones that were tested.

The bulk of the devices that failed the test were entry-level with a lesser extent of mid-tier phones. However, there was a smattering of more top-end devices that fell victim to the photo, including Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Premium and Huawei’s P20 Pro.

Consumentenbond broke up the results into three categories – those that failed, those that passed, and those that failed but came equipped with the option to tighten the security parameters. You can view the full list here.

Almost all of the large Android brands like Samsung, Sony, Xiaomi, Huawei, Lenovo/Motorola, and Asus had at least a couple of devices each that were misled by the test.

The 57 devices that weren’t duped included mainly flagship or newer models from Apple, Lenovo/Motorola, Honor, OnePlus, Oppo, Huawei, and HTC.

And then finally to the last category, which is made up of five devices from LG and one device from Honor. The facial recognition of these phones was overthrown by the photo, however it wasn’t under all circumstances as in the end it depended on the severity of the device’s facial recognition settings. Users have to set the stringency options to their own requirements balancing security and speed.

It’s clear that facial recognition isn’t the safest biometrics around, so in light of this Consumentenbond recommends it’s probably best to stick to other options like iris and fingerprint, or even the old-fashioned PIN code – make sure it’s at least six digits though and beware of shoulder surfers with an ‘eye for detail’.

IoT breaches: Nearly half of businesses still can’t detect them
The Internet of Thing’s (IoT’s) rapid rise to prominence may have compromised its security, if a new report from Gemalto is anything to go by.
Carbon Black: What does cybersecurity have in store for 2019?
Tom Kellerman has shared five insights for the year ahead, including a particularly bold one.
Hands-on review: The Ekster Wallet protects your cards against RFID attacks
For some time now, I’ve been protecting my credit cards with tinfoil. The tinfoil hat does attract a lot of comments, but thanks to Ekster, those days are now happily behind me.
Report on SingHealth breach condemns poor security practices
The 2018 Singapore SingHealth data breach was poorly managed and riddled with vulnerabilities from the start.
Tesla wants people to hack its Model 3
Tesla is offering white hat hackers what could be the chance of a lifetime – the opportunity to hack one of its Model 3 vehicles.
How to tackle cyber threats in your home
How should you start securing your devices? The company has provided tips for actions you can take across social media, home routers, TVs, and many more.
Endace joins IBM Security app exchange community
EndaceProbe Network Analytics Platform captures, indexes, and stores network traffic while hosting a variety of network security and performance monitoring applications.
Datto names new CEO as founder steps back
Austin McChord continues as a board member as the former president and COO takes over as CEO.