Sensor Stories August 11, 2015

HTC One Max fingerprint sensor data left unsecured for apps to see

A report from FireEye Labs (a security firm) reveals that some smartphones with fingerprint sensors aren’t as secure as we’d like them to be. The one device named specifically was the HTC One Max which was supposed to store fingerprint data in a secure enclave that no one could get to. Turns out, that wasn’t the case and any app could have potentially gained access to the fingerprint data and even recreated a bitmap image of the fingerprints stored. Thankfully, HTC fixed the gaping hole “in all regions” before the report went public.

FireEye shared images they managed to gain access to inside the HTC One Max, and cropped them to protect the identity of the owners. What you see to the left is just a small portion of someone’s fingerprint. Data obtained through the One Max’s supposedly ‘secure’ enclave. If there’s one small comfort to be taken from this, it’s that the HTC One Max isn’t the most popular phone around, and by now, it’s also relatively old. What’s more, HTC told The Verge that the flaw was only present in the HTC One Max, and doesn’t effect any of its other phones or devices.

While the One Max is the only device specifically named in the vulnerability report, the company does suggest devices from other manufacturers suffer(ed) with the same issue. What’s more, another issue present in a number of devices was a vulnerability which could potentially allow any app to interrupt the fingerprint scanning process as a user was using the sensor. If taken advantage of, this would see software with the ability to take fingerprint data as it’s being read, in real-time.

All devices mentioned (including the Galaxy S5) and others hinted at, have all be locked down since the vulnerability was discovered. When it comes to fingerprint data, we like to think that the information is being treated with paramount focus. Once someone gets your fingerprint data, there’s not a lot you can do about it. You can’t change it like a PIN, password or pattern.

Sensor Stories July 29, 2015

Samsung reduces camera sensor thickness by 20% in quest for slimmer smartphones

Samsung has begun mass-production of a new 16MP camera sensor a full 20% thinner than existing modules, allowing slimmer devices without “bumps” and without compromising on quality, says the company.

Built with 1.0μm pixels, Samsung’s new 16Mp image sensor reduces the module’s overall height by 20 percent, compared to current 1.12μm-pixel based 16Mp sensor modules. Enabling a module z-height that is less than 5mm, the S5K3P3 offers designers the ability to develop a mobile device with minimal camera protrusion without compromising on resolution.

Smaller pixels usually means more ‘noise’ in photos, especially in low-light conditions, but the company says that the inclusion of physical barriers between pixels – something Samsung calls ISOCELL technology – dramatically reduces noise. It claims that ISOCELL allows it to deliver image quality on a par with 1.12μm-pixel sensors.

Samsung says that the new S5K3P3 sensor is available to mobile device manufacturers from today; bets on it appearing in the forthcoming Galaxy S6 edge+ and possible the Galaxy Note 5 – it gets its current flagship phone cameras from Sony.

Sensor Stories May 19, 2014

Samsung is looking to bring biometric sensors including fingerprint sensors and beyond to not just future flagship models but also its low-end and entry-level smartphones as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung’s senior vice president Rhee In-jong confirmed that biometric sensors for security features— such as the fingerprint scanner already included in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S5— will also soon come to the company’s less expensive devices. In addition, he hinted that iris detection features could be the next sensor technology it taps into for high-end devices: expand full story

Sensor Stories April 2, 2014

Chipworks managed to get its hands on a Galaxy S5 ahead of Samsung’s new flagship handset officially going on sale on 11th April, and has been taking a look inside. The model it obtained was a Korean one, thanks to several carriers releasing it early. We’ve also noted third-party suppliers on Amazon advertising it as available in 1-2 days.

While Chipworks has only just begun its analysis, it does provide a sneak peek of the innards, together with a steer on three of the elements it plans to examine in detail: the fingerprint sensor, heart-rate chip and camera sensor.

The company says that the fingerprint sensor is split into two parts, a touch sensor embedded in the home button, and a second part connected to the touchscreen. It isn’t yet clear whether the screen simply detects a touch and switches on the sensor, or whether data from the touchscreen forms part of the identification process.

fingerprint  expand full story

Deal: Get Pixelbook at 25% off: $750!

Sensor Stories February 18, 2014

SamMobile is reporting that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will have a fingerprint sensor which will both unlock the phone and allow automated website logins. We’re expecting to see the S5 officially announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 24th February, though it may not go on sale until March or April.

It had earlier been rumored that the S5 would have iris recognition, but a KGI Research document pointed instead to a fingerprint sensor, which SamMobile claims to be able to confirm via sources inside Samsung.

We are finally confirming that Samsung’s upcoming flagship device, the Galaxy S5, will be equipped with a fingerprint sensor […]

Samsung hasn’t opted for on-screen buttons and is still using physical buttons, like it has been using in the past on all of its flagship devices. The sensor itself works in a swipe manner, which means that you would need to swipe the entire pad of your finger, from base to tip, across the home key to register your fingerprint properly …  expand full story

Sensor Stories August 2, 2013

More details emerge on Moto X’s Clear Pixel sensor – and why you should care

Motorola told us yesterday that the Moto X has a “10MP Clear Pixel (RGBC)” camera, and now Engadget has a little more info on this.

It’s the OmniVision OV10820, a 1/2.6-inch sensor with a video-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio and large 1.4-micron pixels. Its strong low-light performance comes through a two-chip approach. The sensor captures RAW images using a sensitive RGBC (red / green / blue / clear) color filter, and a companion chip automatically converts the resulting shots into the Bayer format that most imaging processors expect. The result is a high-performance camera that slots inside the Moto X without requiring any special effort.

RAW images allow a sensor to capture greater ‘dynamic range’. Picture a bright sunny day with a tree casting a shadow. With most sensors, either the shaded area would appear solid black or the surrounding area would appear too bright. RAW allows a sensor to retain detail across both bright and dark areas.

And the size of the pixels? These are again important for image quality, especially in low-light conditions. There has been a tendency for manufacturers to cram more and more pixels into a given sensor size, knowing that most consumers think a higher megapixel number has to mean a better camera. In practice, it can mean the opposite as the quality of indoor photos suffer because the pixels are too small. A larger physical sensor size enables larger pixels and better quality.

1.4 micron pixels are larger than most smartphone cameras, but not exceptional in todays high-end handsets. It’s larger than the 1.12 micron in the standard Samsung S4, the same as the S4 Zoom and iPhone 5 – but not as large as the 2 micron pixels in the HTC One.

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