On September 12, 2017, Apple announced the next generation smartphone, the iPhone X. As a result of this announcement, many of the rumored features of the device were verified, including wireless charging, a fully edge-to-edge OLED display, and, perhaps most notably, facial recognition.
Facial Recognition Makes Its Way Onto The iPhone X
Similar to Touch ID (the fingerprint scanner of past generations), Apple’s facial recognition software has been named “Face ID.” The process works by scanning an individual’s face with a specially designed infrared sensor. Once a match has been made to the owner of the device, the phone will unlock. The iPhone X Face ID can also be used to verify purchases made on the Apple store and other third-party apps. However, Face ID will not protect your device from online threats, such as malicious software. That being said, it is important to take the appropriate measures to ensure your personal safety and data protection. If you happen to receive a suspicious text or email after making a purchase to a third-party vendor using Face ID, use a person search tool to verify the sender’s identity before you open the message or click on any links within it.
While facial recognition is a new feature for Apple’s iPhone, other smartphones have been using this technology for years now. However, not all facial recognition software is created equal. For instance, Apple’s Face ID uses its infrared sensor to cast 30,000 dots on the user’s face. This allows the iPhone X to perform a quick 3D analysis of the individual’s physical features. This is incredibly important when it comes to device security. For instance, it will prevent a 2D image, such as a simple photograph of the owner’s face, from unlocking the phone. This same issue that has plagued other smartphones utilizing facial recognition software.
Similar to how Touch ID works, Face ID will not store a complete image of the user’s face. Instead, it will save that information in an encrypted, mathematical form. So even if someone were to gain access to the device, they would not be able to reconstruct an image of the user’s face from the saved data. This data will only be stored locally on the device in a special processing unit called the “Secure Enclave.” The information stored here cannot be uploaded to the cloud. That way, not even Apple will have access to it. All of this effort is put into place to make Face ID as secure as humanly (and digitally) possible.
While Apple has seemingly taken every precaution into account, there are still some issues that cannot be avoided. Let’s take a look at some of the potential security concerns that come along with using facial recognition.
Face ID Security Concerns
While Apple’s Face ID may be a more secure method of locking your phone than other biometric scanners, there is still one major risk. According to U.S. law, biometric scans are not protected under the fifth amendment. Under normal circumstances, an authority figure cannot force you to unlock your phone. However, in the event that your phone has been locked via biometric scan, authorities can then force you to unlock your device. For this reason alone, a password is a far more secure method of unlocking your phone than any other method.
Apple has also stated that an identical twin, or sibling who closely resembles you, may be able to trick Face ID into unlocking. The closer the genetic relationship to the owner, the more likely that individual will be able to access the device through facial recognition. In addition to this, the iPhone Face ID should not be used by any children under the age of 13. This is because the majority of their distinctive features have yet to become fully developed. Their facial features also have the potential to change drastically over a short period of time, which could end up locking them out of their phones.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that it took only two weeks for hackers to bypass touch ID on the iPhone 6. While it’s far too early to say whether a similar situation may arise for the iPhone X’s Face ID, it’s a possibility.
If nothing else, the iPhone X Face ID will certainly be an upgrade over Touch ID in terms of security. However, the jury is still out on whether biometric scans can protect your phone as securely as a strong password. Once the general public gets their hands on the iPhone X, we should know more about this issue.
Are you thinking of picking up your own iPhone X when it launches? If so, are you going to use the new Face ID or stick to the traditional password? Let us know by replying below!
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Update (11/13/2017): Researchers at the Vietnamese security firm Bkav have discovered a way to trick the iPhone X’s facial recognition software into unlocking the device using a specially crafted mask. According to the researchers, it took approximately $150 worth of materials (along with a 3d printer) to produce the mask. They also acknowledged the fact that the average consumer should not worry about this finding due to the time and effort required to create the mask. That being said, it does go to show that Apple’s facial recognition software is not as infallible as originally thought.