Biometric authentication is something we take for granted nowadays, but it was just a few years ago that fingerprint sensors were taking the industry by storm. Now, face-based unlocking is the name of the game, and everyone’s trying to implement it. As some Galaxy S10 buyers are learning, though, not every Face Unlock feature is as equally secure.
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As colleagues have noted (two in particular) many times, the idea of face unlock has the potential to be a better, easier, and safer way to unlock your device. To an extent, we’ve seen that on Apple’s iPhone X and XS. However, Android has yet to see a true copy of that experience, with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro perhaps being the closest.
For the most part, Android OEMs using a face unlock feature are just using a camera. Depending on the software backing that up, it can be relatively secure, but more sensors are needed for proper security. On the brand new, expensive Galaxy S10, Samsung uses nothing more than a camera for Face Unlock, and it’s hysterically bad.
Since Galaxy S10 units landed in the hands of reviewers and, at this point, customers, there have been numerous users explaining how easy it is to trick the feature. The Verge noted in its review how another phone with a video of the user would trick the S10. Unbox Therapy noted the same in a recent video, even putting it to the test with circumstances that surely should not have tricked Samsung’s system.
Further examples including Jane Wong, well-known for her sneak peeks at upcoming features in popular apps. She discovered that she could unlock her brother’s Galaxy S10 just thanks to a family resemblance. Android Police also pulls an example from an Italian tech outlet, SmartWorld, which was able to fool the system with a static image, even with the “Faster Face Recognition” option turned off. A user on Reddit noted the same thingon
Another example we spotted on Reddit shows a user who found that his friend with no clear resemblance could unlock his device consistently. Apparently, the only similar feature there can from the fact that both had a beard.
Clearly, Samsung’s face unlock feature on the Galaxy S10 is flawed in a huge way. It’s never going to be as secure as what Apple uses, but the company needs to implement some changes to solve this. Even similar features on previous Galaxy devices weren’t this easy to fool. At least on devices like the S9, Samsung used an iris scanner for better security.
It’s also a shame that Samsung didn’t make the investment to bring the ToF sensor found on the Galaxy S10 5G into the entire lineup. While it would have resulted in a larger punch-hole cutout, I think the tradeoff would have been well worth it.
If you did purchase a Galaxy S10, S10+, or S10e, you’ll probably want to go ahead and turn off face unlock if you value security.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G also has a ToF sensor for better Face Unlock
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