Experiment Shows A 3D-Printed Head Can Unlock A Cell Phone

There are several ways to unlock your phone, including using facial recognition. While you may think that this is one of the more secure ways to protect your device, it has its flaws.

Thomas Brewster, a writer for Forbes, made a 3D image of his head with the aim of using it to unlock a handful of cell phones. A company that specializes in 3D imaging created Brewster’s face using 50 cameras, gypsum powder, and some colouring. The project cost about $377US.

Brewster was able to use the 3D image to gain access to most of the models he tried, which included an iPhone, LG, two Samsung models, and a OnePlus.

Many of the phones cautioned that the facial recognition method may not be as secure as other locking procedures. It wasn’t super easy to unlock a phone with the 3D-printed head. Sometimes a change in angle or lighting was necessary to open the device. But eventually, Brewster was able to unlock each of the Android phones. While the 3D image did not unlock the iPhone, a 3D printed mask has reportedly been able to do so in the past.

It should be noted that many phone providers acknowledge that unlocking a phone with your face is comparable to swiping the screen as opposed to biometric security.

One problem with biometric scans is that body measurements and calculations can change. A person’s face may become disfigured or they can lose a fingertip, making the scan inoperable. Another major issue is that it’s hard to get a new face or fingerprint—what you have is what you got. You can reset your password but you can’t erase your face.

While the average thief may not make the effort to 3D print a victim’s head, other people may be interested in doing so, including law enforcement, employers, or others who could profit by the action. It’s scary to think how easy (and relatively inexpensive) it is to carry out such a task.

There are pros and cons to facial recognition technology. At this stage, it’s still an imperfect science. Crossmatch, authentication and biometric identity management company, writes on its blog, “Despite enormous advances, recognizing faces from multiple camera angles or with obstructions (such as hats) is still not perfect. Plus, there have been controversies related to privacy issues, particularly in retail settings. This is why face recognition should be combined with other multifactor methods to strengthen user access, never as a single factor by itself.”


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