Forbes: We cheated Android’s face recognition, but not iPhones

Forbes magazine managed to break into a series of Android phones with a fake face mask, but the iPhone was standing still.

Face recognition is not as secure as smartphone manufacturers would like us to believe. It requires some preparation, but then it is possible to break into many smartphones.

The magazine Forbes has tested face recognition based on a 3D-printed mask, and found that at that level most smartphones left behind and closed.

It was them from Android. The iPhone was not allowed to cheat.

While FaceID appeared, examples of close family members could open each other’s iPhones, and it doesn’t seem like a “simple” mask can do the same.

Today, a 3D printer is available for a few thousand dollars and a 3D scanner is even built into some smartphones (Sony). So making a fairly similar 3D mask of a face is no longer a remote option.

However, this fake head used for the Forbes test was not made on the 3D printer at home. Instead, it was the professional from Backface, Birmingham, UK, who was behind it. It cost just around £300.

Smartphones tested

Forbes tested face recognition with these five smartphones:

  • LG G7 ThinQ
  • Samsung S9
  • Samsung Note 8
  • OnePlus 6
  • Apple iPhone X

LG warns during installation of their G7 ThinQ smartphone to turn face recognition on, on the grounds that it is less secure. That phone also opened on the fake mask immediately.

Samsung also warns of S9 that face recognition is less secure and can close strangers if they look like the user.

The Samsung Note 8 mentions a feature for faster face recognition that they warn against is less secure than a slow scan.

The Samsung S9 and LG G7 have similarly slower and more accurate face recognition, and Forbes tests confirm that it actually makes it harder to cheat the phones.

But even the slow facial recognition could be cheated. Just a few more attempts were needed, in relation to the angle and light of the mask.

OnePlus 6 does not allow for slower facial recognition, nor did the manufacturer warn against facial recognition being less secure. Instead, they have an installation phase that Forbes calls “sci-fi style”, which gives an impression of something hi-tech.

The OnePlus phone, however, opened up the fake mask every time, and without the possibility of slower and more accurate face recognition, this test was the least secure smartphone. OnePlus explains to Forbes that in the design of the face recognition they have focused on convenience.

Although there have also been examples in the past about cheating their FaceID face recognition in the Apple iPhone, a 3D printed mask like this is not one of the ways. Whatever Forbes tried, iPhone X remained closed.

Read more about Forbes test and watch the video from the experiment here.

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