10-year-old son tricks Face ID to unlock his mom’s iPhone X
When Apple unveiled its premium flagship smartphone, iPhone X during the September launch event, the USP was the Face ID technology used in the device that will provide full proof security and cannot be tricked.
However, several tests show that Apple’s Face ID technology can be easily tricked if one has an identical twin or if one uses a specially constructed 3D mask. This has only raised questions over Apple’s claim of the Face ID being an effective security feature of the iPhone X.
Now, a video of a mom and her 10-year-old kid uploaded on YouTube shows how the kid unlocks his mom’s iPhone X despite the handset being secured by Face ID. In a video shared by the family on YouTube, they said, “We are seeing a flood of videos on YouTube from iPhone users who have gotten their hands on the new iPhone X and are trying to trick the Face ID. When my wife and I received our iPhone X, we had no such intention. However, things changed right after we were done setting up our new iPhones on November 3rd. We were sitting down in our bedroom and were just done setting up the Face IDs, our 10-year-old son walked in anxious to get his hands on the new iPhone X. Right away my wife declared that he was not going to access her phone. Acting exactly as a kid would do when asked to not do something, he picked up her phone and with just a glance got right in.”
Although, Apple in its support page has said that the chances of a person unlocking somebody else’s iPhone with Face ID is 1 in a million, however, things could be different if you have an identical twin, siblings and for children below the age of 13. For those who are concerned about security, Apple recommended to use a passcode to authenticate.
But, in this particular case, the fifth-grader Ammar Malik could unlock his mom’s, Sana Sherwani’s iPhone X, although there is no striking resemblance between the mom and son. Not only this, when he tried his hands on his dad’s, Attaullah Malik, iPhone X, he was able to successfully unlock that too.
So, how did the Face ID feature fail in such a scenario?
It is likely that during the repeated testing while making the video would have trained the Face ID on the iPhone to the son accidentally. Here’s how Apple describes this process:
“Conversely, if Face ID fails to recognize you, but the match quality is higher than a certain threshold and you immediately follow the failure by entering your passcode, Face ID takes another capture and augments its enrolled Face ID data with the newly calculated mathematical representation.”
In an interview with WIRED, Malik expressed concern that his son was able to access Sherwani’s iPhone X. On the behest of WIRED, Sherwani was asked to re-register her face on Face ID again to see what would happen. Once she freshly programmed her phone, she handed it to Ammar, who tried unlocking the device but failed. To test it further, Sherwani tried registering her face again a few hours later, to replicate the indoor, nighttime lighting conditions, in which she had first set her phone up. The same problem occurred with Ammar being able to unlock the phone only on his third try. After multiple such attempts, he was able to unlock the iPhone X again on his sixth try. At that point, Malik says, the AI behind Face ID seemed trained to learn Ammar’s features, and he could constantly unlock it again and again.
Basically, part of the Face ID’s capabilities is that, if it does not recognize the user but a certain threshold is met and the password is entered immediately, Apple’s Neural Engine allows a person’s iPhone to learn and study a person’s face throughout time and combine it with what is stored inside the iPhone X. This means that the Face ID may have picked up similarities between the mother-son pair that allowed Ammar to unlock the iPhone X using his face. If more time was given to the Neural Engine to study only Sherwani’s face, there could have been chances of it picking up the slight differences between mother and son.
This experiment doesn’t imply that just any random person who steals your phone could break through Face ID; so iPhone X owners should not really worry.
Apple has yet to comment on the issue.