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’.

Updated: Chch crypto-exchange Cryptopia suffers breach
Cryptopia has reportedly experienced a security breach that has taken the entire platform offline – and resulted in ‘significant losses’.
iPhone XS Max costs average Kiwi 11.6 work days – world comparison
A new study has compared how long it will take the average worker in 42 countries to purchase Apple's newest iPhone - NZ doesn't do too bad.
Chorus reckons Kiwis have an insatiable appetite for data
New Zealanders love the internet – and we love Fortnite even more.
Hands-on review: XANOVA Juturna-U gaming headset
Despite my first impressions on the quality of the headset, I was disappointed with both of the auxiliary cables provided, which felt cheap and would cut out, almost as if they were already frayed.
Audioengine’s Wireless A5+ are just bloody good speakers
I judge these speakers on the aspects that Audioengine boasts about - quality, streaming, simplicity and versatility
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.
OPPO aims to have 5G device launched by end of year
The Chinese smartphone manufacturer is working with Keysight Technologies to accelerate the development of their 5G smartphone.
LG makes TVs smarter with new AI processors
Latest TVs from LG use deep learning to enhance the video and audio output and introduces integration with Alexa.