3D Printed Heads Can Fool Android Face Unlock, But not Apple’s Face ID, test Reveals

Ever since Apple had introduced Face ID with its 10th anniversary iPhone X, it had pushed several Android device makers to put face unlock authentication on almost every Android device in the market. While Apple had wholly ditched the fingerprint Touch ID entirely by relying on Face ID, Android device makers had introduced Face Unlock as more of an option and a secondary authentication system and still relies on either fingerprint/PIN/Pattern as primary authentication. That said, how secure is the Face Unlock on Android, when compared to Apple’s Face ID?

Well, folks at Forbes have tested the same by using few of the most popular Android devices that include – the Samsung Galaxy S9, Note 8, the OnePlus 6 and the LG G7 ThinQ besides the Apple iPhone X as well. According to the report, they have used a 3D printed head of one of their reporters for testing the face authentication amongst all the devices, which were pre-registered with the reporter’s actual face itself. However, the report claims the reporter’s 3D printed head has fooled all the Android devices tested and the iPhone X appeared to be impenetrable.

As stated, during the testing, the Android devices were pre-registered with the reporters face, however, while setting up the face registration on the Android devices, apart from the OnePlus 6, all the other OEMs have come up with a warning resembling face unlock is less secure than the conventional fingerprint or PIN/Pattern.

Whereas OnePlus 6 haven’t come with either of the warnings, nevertheless, the company had confirmed that Face recognition on the OP6 is a process to get into your phone more quickly but isn’t safer as the other authentication systems. On the other hand, Apple iPhone X couldn’t be fooled or tricked by the 3D Printed heads – thanks to Apple’s effort on the TrueDepth camera system and the 3D mapping techniques implemented.

Does this mean the Android devices don’t have secure face unlock? No, that’s not the truth, unlike the OPPO (Find X) and Huawei (Mate 20 Pro) devices, wherein the actual 3D Depth Sensing comes into action, these tested phones rely on 2D photo capture where the front-facing camera is utilized for authentication, which is now proven to be easily tricked.

Considering the tested smartphones are from the hottest brands setting up Face Unlock feature as a primary authentication isn’t recommended, even from the manufacturers themselves. Henceforth, the fingerprint or a PIN/Pattern are still the primary authentications which are secure and are used for banking or wallets authentication as well.

The report states that it has also tested Microsoft’s Windows Hello authentication with the 3D printed head, but no luck here, as Microsoft’s facial recognition didn’t accept the fake head. Using the alphanumeric password instead of relying on bio-metrics is perhaps recommended by Matt Lewis, research director at cybersecurity contractor NCC Group, according to the report.

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