3D Printed Head Fools Face Unlock on Galaxy S9, Note 8, and OnePlus 6; iPhone X ‘Impenetrable’

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 17 Dec 2018

Apple debuted Face ID with the iPhone X in 2017. Since then, Android OEMs have been in a race to bring face unlock to their own mid-range and flagship devices as well. Unlike Apple, Android OEMs simply relied on software wizardry and the selfie camera to get the job done.

This allowed them to bring face unlock to a wide range of devices at a very minimal cost since they did not have to invest in additional hardware. This approach is widely different from the one followed by Apple which uses an array of sensors on the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XR for Face ID to offer an additional layer of security, though this does end up increasing the overall unlock time.

To show just how insecure the face unlock implementation on some popular Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ, and OnePlus 6 is, Forbes conducted a test where they tried to unlock devices like the Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ, and OnePlus 6 using a 3D printed head from Backface in Birmingham, U.K.

Unsurprisingly, all the four Android devices were easily fooled by the 3D printed head, with only Face ID on the iPhone X being “impenetrable” and did not unlock even once irrespective of the number of tries. The OnePlus 6 was the worst performer of the lot and unlocked itself almost instantly every single time. LG and Samsung fared a bit better as they at least displayed a warning highlighting that face unlock might not be as secure as using a traditional password or the fingerprint scanner. LG even rolled out an update for the G7 ThinQ which made face unlock slightly more secure. As for Samsung, it offers iris recognition on the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9 which could not be fooled by the 3D printed head.

The iPhone X was on a different level altogether. It could not be fooled by the 3D printed head even once all thanks to the array of sensors used by Apple for Face ID.

These tests confirm and highlight what we already know but most people tend to forget. Face unlock on most Android devices is simply present for convenience factor and it is simply not secure enough. While a 3D-printed face was used in this experiment, face unlock on most Android devices can be fooled by simply holding one’s photograph in front of them. So, if you really value security, it is best you spend the additional moolah and get an iPhone with Face ID. You will have to pay a lot for it but it will at least make up for it in terms of experience.

[Via Forbes]