Very soon face recognition systems in smartphones of all price classes will probably be able to unlock devices, replacing the troublesome PIN code entry and sending fingerprint readers to retire. One look is enough to unlock the phone. How secure is this method?
When it comes to smartphones, authorization using a facial image seems like a sensible idea. It is certainly comfortable – after all, we look at the phone anyway.
In general, the smartphone industry seems to agree that Apple was not the first company to come up with unlocking a smartphone using the face. However, when they applied this technology to the iPhone X, the entire industry followed it. Almost every telephone presented at the Mobile World Congress 2018 trade fair had this function.
How does facial recognition work?
It is a biometric technology that works on the principle of face mapping. It is not so that our face is one static image, but a series of indicators – from the length and shape of our nose to the size of the lips or the expanse of cheekbones. To be able to identify someone correctly, all of this data must match. Thanks to this, simple changes in appearance will not make us confuse this technology. The thing is that it can’t be that simple, because it would be ineffective and insecure. After all, it’s not like we look the same every day – we can change the hairstyle, put on glasses, paint differently. Facial recognition technology can’t be fooled so easily, because that way we wouldn’t be able to unlock our phone quickly.
Is it useful?
Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool that can be used for both good and bad purposes. For example:
Getting information on who enters the country
The US Department of State has been expanding its portrait photos database since 2004, which now has 75 million photos. Even before 2018, these data are to be used for issuing visas, which is to help protect the country against terrorists and criminals.
Tracking digital ID thieves
Since 2008, the US Automotive Department (DMV) has been using face recognition to search for criminals who steal the identity of others to obtain a driving license. Using a similar system, this type of fraud was halved in Indiana in two years.
Finding the Missing
Have you ever heard of the Helping Faceless project? It is supported by Ericsson, and its goal is to return lost children to their families and stop child trafficking.
However, this technology is most often used differently: for example, Apple, Google or Facebook use their own recognition systems to identify people against the background of the landscape, find the user in the photo and sort the photos by categories.
Onboarding process and Id verification
Usually a service or a mobile app to verify the user’s profile so to identify that the person is who he or she claims to be. It is very useful in the onboarding process or in banks or other financial institutions.
Face Recognition danger
The ability to use your face to unlock a phone is a feature mentioned in marketing materials, but you won’t find anywhere explaining how it works. In most cases, face recognition in cheaper phones uses only the front camera and not very complicated algorithms, sometimes the flash is used to take a better picture. However, an ordinary 2D camera without an infrared sensor or a spot projector can easily be deceived by using a photo (downloaded, for example, from a social network account) printed or displayed on the screen. Even better models accept 3D printed masks. Although Apple’s Face ID feature has also been cheated in a twin dummy attack, phones that rely only on ordinary photos are completely vulnerable here.
What about Face ID precision?
Face ID achieves high precision thanks to the points designed on the user’s face, and more specifically their number – there are over 30 thousand. It is worth emphasizing that each subsequent use of this technology improves its effectiveness – it is a system that is constantly learning. As a result, putting on glasses, growing a beard or applying strong make-up may not be an obstacle. Different lighting conditions are also not problematic. However, if face recognition fails, the emergency option remains in the form of a code.
Is it worth using Face ID?
Face ID – as before Touch ID – is undoubtedly one of the most interesting authorization technologies that smartphones have been enriched in recent years. Both solutions provide much more comfort than a regular password, PIN or pattern. Face ID if only properly used, is, however, a system that not only records better results but also makes a greater impression and allows you to have a sense of caring for your privacy as well as being part of the techno-revolution.