Story image

A photo still enough to defeat face unlock of many phones

12 Jan 2019

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’.

Kiwis know security is important, but they're not doing much about it
Only 49% of respondents use antivirus software and even fewer – just 19% -  change their passwords regularly.
Avi Networks: Using visibility to build trust
Visibility, also referred to as observability, is a core tenet of modern application architectures for basic operation, not just for security.
Privacy: The real cost of “free” mobile apps
Sales of location targeted advertising, based on location data provided by apps, is set to reach $30 billion by 2020.
Myth-busting assumptions about identity governance - SailPoint
The identity governance space has evolved and matured over the past 10 years, changing with the world around it.
Forrester names Crowdstrike leader in incident response
The report provides an in-depth evaluation of the top 15 IR service providers across 11 criteria.
Slack doubles down on enterprise key management
EKM adds an extra layer of protection so customers can share conversations, files, and data while still meeting their own risk mitigation requirements.
Security professionals want to return fire – Venafi
Seventy-two percent of professionals surveyed believe nation-states have the right to ‘hack back’ cybercriminals.
Alcatraz AI to replace corporate badges with AI security
The Palo Alto-based startup supposedly leverages facial recognition, 3D sensing, and machine learning to enable secure access control.