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The new iPhone X has caused quite a stir. The reportedly brighter and more intelligent 5.8 inch display phone has featured heavily on TV adverts and magazines. For an eye-watering £999, the smartphone boasts better specs and a new key feature and selling point which is its facial recognition technology.
In a world where high profile data breaches are constantly threatening our privacy, Apple asserts that facial recognition technology cannot be deceived by 2D pictures, lookalikes and family. Needless to say, many have taken on the challenge to test just how accurate the technology is.
Apparently, it has already been cracked…
Almost a decade ago in 2009, security researchers from a Vietnamese security firm Bkav demonstrated how to by-pass face-based authentication to unlock Toshiba and Lenovo laptops. They discovered a manufacturer algorithm that, when combined with simple pictures of the owner, can bypass the security system.
Apple insists that its new iPhone X can only be unlocked through its facial recognition system by the owner’s live human face. Eager to take on the new challenge, researchers from the same Vietnamese firm took it upon themselves to do just that.
They used a $150 physical mask to crack the iPhone X’s new facial recognition technology.
The bizarre-looking contraption consists of the owner’s key features (eyes, nose and mouth) printed and stuck onto a plain white 3D mask modelled on the owner’s facial structure.
However, it doesn’t mean you should dump your expensive iPhone X handset just yet.
Bkav’s new demonstration may have missed out vital information in cracking the facial recognition technology. Online technology magazine ARS Technica explains that there is a key distinction between whether the mask was used to unlock the phone in its first go, or whether the phone was ‘trained’ to recognise it. The iPhone’s facial ID takes additional pictures of the subject to learn about the subjects face. Just like seeing someone for the second time and recognising them straight away, or knowing someone for years and immediately recognising them even at an odd angle or lighting.
The creation of the mask has incited criticism as the owner could have patiently sat and had an exact mould of his face created for the purposes of cracking his own phone. If the purpose is to prove Apple wrong purely on the point that the phone cannot be cracked by anything other than a live face, success appears to have been achieved. However, if a real-life hacker was attempting to crack the phone without the owner patiently cooperating to create a $150 mask then the story is very different.
With Face ID replacing Touch ID, owners still need to take care if they use ID verification systems to access accounts and make purchases.
That being said, Bkav’s demonstration does teach us an important lesson: there is always a way. Hackers are constantly learning about new ways to hack into things, and in a few years, the iPhone X facial recognition system may be obsolete in the face of a sophisticated hacker.
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