Will Face ID be Truly Secure?

Posted by Jeremy Chew
October 4, 2017

Self-Published

Is this advanced biometric security technology really worth it? Here’s what the Face ID has in store for iPhone X users.

How Does it Work?

Apple’s premium flagship comes with a number of sensors at the top of the device which include an infrared camera, dot projector, and flood illuminator. The projector casts thousands of invisible dots onto your face, while the flood illuminator beams an infrared light that the infrared camera harnesses to scan the dots. This will be converted into biometric data that goes to the iPhone X’s internal memory where it is analyzed, checking whether the facial features of the person trying to unlock the device match up to the face that was saved when the Face ID was set up. If you are worried about your biometric data being sent to an external computer database, then worry not because the processing of data is done on the device itself and not transmitted to a server which can be hacked.

The Pros of Using Face ID

Can Adapt to Minor Changes

Since the iPhone X sports an infrared camera, using the Face ID in dimly lit environments and bright settings won’t affect its performance. Minor changes on the face like having a makeup on or wearing eyewear or a hat won’t stop it from working either. This is because the software that the iPhone X houses can adapt to subtle changes. Unless you make significant changes to your face like shaving off a beard, then you to have to set up the Face ID again on your phone.

It’s Fool-Proof!

Apple’s SVP, Phil Schiller said that, with the Face ID, there’s only a remarkably slim chance of 1 in a million that a random person could unlock the device with their face which is much better than the Touch ID fingerprint sensor’s 1 in 50,000. Unless if you have an evil twin, then you need to back it up with a passcode. Also, there’s a concern about whether the Face ID can be fooled using a photo or a mask of the user’s face. This stems from other faulty face recognition systems like those on Samsung’s latest phones in which they are fooled by photos from the users’ social media accounts. But Apple is confident that this won’t be the case for the Face ID as they have done thorough testing on it. As for unlocking the device with face masks, this won’t work either since they have enlisted Hollywood studios to come up with realistic face masks.

The Cons of Using Face ID

Unlocking the device feels awkward

Before the advent of the Face ID, many complained about how the Touch ID unlocks the device incredibly fast that users can’t even check at notifications. Not to mention, some questioned whether it is safe to use. But now that Apple has implemented the Face ID, many realize that it falls short in terms of ergonomics and the fears associated with using the Touch ID have proven to be wrong. With the Face ID, you need to aim the device at your face and then swipe it up to unlock it, which appears to be a slow and awkward process. Plus, unlocking it does seem like you are taking a selfie as it won’t work if you’re looking away from the device or your eyes are shut. On the other hand, the Touch ID comes with an impressive design that matches to your normal usage. Although Apple believes that the Face ID is more secure and faster, nothing will still ever replace the convenience and practicality of the Touch ID.

Easier for Law Enforcement to Access the Device

If under duress by a mugger or law enforcement, it’s tough to cover your face if someone else coerces you to unlock the device against your will. Although you can always refuse to disclose your device’s passcode or look directly into its display to unlock it, police officers could incarcerate you for contempt unless your eyes cooperate. With that, Apple would still need to study this aspect and have it tested in court.

Conclusion

Many Apple fans and enthusiasts are still not sure of the implications of the face ID to unlock the iPhone X once it hits stores in November. Apple removed the bezels in exchange for an edge-to-edge display that leaves no more space for a home button and its tried-and-tested TouchID (fingerprint sensor).  Compared to the Touch ID which has proven itself reliable, same cannot be said to the Face ID at the moment, at least not yet.

The Face ID may be a cutting-edge feature that takes a giant leap forward from the traditional Touch ID. However, the responses it has received so far from the cybersecurity community is somewhat mixed – some are praising it while others provide cautionary feedback.

The extent of Face ID’s security feature has yet to be fully determined. While Apple’s love-it-or-hate-it marketing approach may seem quite absurd, it’s worth noting that it’s also the same company who didn’t yield to the FBI when it demanded a backdoor to their iPhone’s security system. Apple chose privacy of their users over a fail-safe for the government against terrorists (using iPhones). Whether or not the agenda behind their decision is a good thing, it depends on what you believe in.

One thing is clear though, Apple has proven that they stand up for the privacy of their users. So, it would be less likely for the Face ID to veer away from that narrative. However, whether or not it’s more reliable than the Touch ID, it’s something that we have to see for ourselves when it gets released.

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Written by Reymart Jan Sarigumba from iPrice Group

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