Consumentenbond Researchers Beat Google Android’s Facial Recognition
Image Courtesy of CNET
  • A report by consumer protection organization Consumentenbond revealed that facial recognition on Google Android devices can be easily tricked.
  • 42 of 110 tested devices were exploited using images to trick facial recognition software.
  • High-end devices from top manufacturers were resistant to the researchers efforts while cheaper devices could be easily tricked.

Soon after researchers beat the reCaptcha system by Google, another group of consumer protection professionals has managed to break into dozens of Android devices by tricking the platform’s facial recognition software. Research company Consumentenbond revealed that 110 devices were tested, of which 42 could be beaten fairly easily by simply using a photograph of the respective user.

Not all facial recognition software work similarly when it comes to Google’s Android platform. Device manufacturers implement their own tweaks, but there are drawbacks to the technology. One of the positive takeaways from the report is that high-end devices were not affected. Apple’s iPhone XR and XS phones passed the test as well. The bypass method is not particularly complicated as the researchers used social media photos of users in most cases. Not all high-end devices were foolproof with the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 compact being found vulnerable while the budget and mid-range devices like the Galaxy A6 and Moto G6 could not be bypassed.

A number of users prefer using fingerprint recognition available on Google’s Android OS or Apple’s iOS platforms. Fingerprint recognition is much faster and facial recognition can be quite clunky especially on low-end and mid-range devices with hardware that’s not up to the mark.

Even though some Android manufacturers deployed a form of depth sensing so 2D images could not be used to trick Google’s software, people have been able to use 3D wax heads to trick the security feature. The issue is not seen in Apple’s Face ID which is far more accurate.

However, even though Apple’s Face ID is superior in every way to what most Android devices offer, it is far from perfect. Sony is set to change that with its depth-sensing sensors that may be implemented in Apple devices soon, but we are still quite a few months away from its release.

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