Android facial recognition duped by 3D-printed head

Android phones are susceptible to fraudulent unlocking with the help of 3D-printed heads, a recent investigation has found. In a bid to test the security of facial recognition technology, Forbes journalist Thomas Brewster commissioned a 3D-printed replica of his own head, trying it out against five smartphones’ biometric security systems.

While Apple’s iPhone X proved unmoved by the £300 3D-printed head, all four of the Android handsets tested fell for the artificial face. “If you’re an Android customer […] look away from your screen now,” warned Brewster. “All of the Androids opened with the fake. Apple’s phone, however, was impenetrable.”

The Android handsets tested were some of the Google software’s most contemporary hardware counterparts, including 2018’s finest: the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the LG G7 ThinQ and the OnePlus 6. Apple’s 2017 proffering, the iPhone X, meanwhile, withstood the fraudulent test, refusing to budge when the dead-eyed replica head stared it down.

Apple’s Face ID system has long been considered superior, security-wise, to the facial recognition systems wielded by Android phones. That’s because Apple’s biometric security system comes equipped with IR depth matting and attention awareness technology, making its Face ID far less susceptible to the no-so-wily ways of an inanimate head.

This is something all but corroborated by the Android phones’ makers, none of whom, in an interview with Forbes, claimed equal levels of security system sophistication to Apple.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time somebody has pulled a stunt quite so… fleshed out, for want of a less ironic term. After the 2017 unveiling of the iPhone X, pranksters aplenty tried to fool its biometric facial recognition. November that year saw Vietnamese security firm Bkav claim to have gained access to an iPhone X using a sophisticated 3D printed mask made of tone powder. Looks like the iPhone X isn’t wholly impenetrable, then.

This latest stunt, however, should have Android users concerned. Yes, a £300 3D-printed head requires a considerable degree of admin, disposable income and a three-day waiting period to come to fruition. But it it does make breaking into your smartphone a whole lot easier, for punters and police alike. Manually typing in your password doesn’t sound quite so arduous now, does it…

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