Android Ice Cream Sandwich facial recognition presents obvious security flaw

Remember that cool “face unlock” feature in Android Ice Cream Sandwich Google unveiled at its Galaxy Nexus launch event in Hong Kong? Well, to no one’s surprise, the feature isn’t all that secure after all. The way this thing is suppose to work is users set their phone to recognize their face, when done they can use the front-facing camera to unlock the phone by correctly matching the first image ever set up on the service.

Unfortunately, everyone’s fear has come true when it comes to unauthorized access to the device. It turns out that this cool feature can be duped with a simple picture. This might put a damper on things far as bragging rights is concerned with what operating system holds the best tricked out security feature. I must say that no one I’ve talked to looks at this feature as a top notch addition to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 anyway, so this discovering won’t change people’s mindset on the matter.

That said, we must first check on whether or not this “face unlock” thing is meant for real security or just for show. I happen to agree with Rob Jackson of Phandroid, when he suggests that the feature isn’t necessarily all about security, but instead “It’s about elegant simplicity.”

[via Phandroid]


  • Jaime Ramirez

    i know how to fix it, have people blink 2 times and boom that solve that problem

    • hoffman1984

      Can someone say shop edited .gif?

    • hoffman1984

      Depending on how detailed the recognition is, making a face that you know won’t be caught on camera anytime soon might do the trick.

      Now, this would also look pretty ridiculous when trying to unlock your phone, but it would be a much more secure way than blinking.

      – XDA Developer –

  • Rwalford79

    “I must say that know one I’ve talked to look at this feature as the top notch addition of Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 anyway”

    Who is proof reading this?
    It should grammatically say,

    I must say that no one I’ve talked to looks at this feature as a top notch addition to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 anyway

    • Charles West

      Fixed, thanks proof reader guy.

  • Jon Garrett

    Facial Unlock is just a gimmick anyway, people should not be surprised that it can be fooled by a picture.

    Im sure they’ll keep working on it but Id prefer Retina scan

  • Neilbantoc

    I don’t really leave my phone secure and just use a simple slider lockscreen. I use an app like app protector to pattern-lock individual personal apps like messaging and leave other apps like games unlocked so that friends who want to borrow my phone can play games/media but have no access to my communication.

    For me, the facial recognition unlock screen is good not in the sense that it is more secure, but it provides an easier way to unlock my device, a “lazy unlock” of some sorts, similar to apps like “unlock with wifi” do, except you unlock with your face. So there, I don’t see it as a more secure unlock screen, but a lock screen that provides ease of use and needs less effort from your part. Provided that it works. You might want to mention this, author of this article.

  • This article is clearly written by a hater and not an actual android user. For 70% of users, the face lock is helpful because its not like they are trying to keep out the CIA or thieves. Most people have passwords to keep out friends, parents, children, coworkers. Lets see you come up with a better idea.

  • Awctwo

    Someone asked for a better idea:  require moving the camera from a profile shot to a straight on shot so that a 3-d image can be rendered.  The obvious security flaw here is if you have a bust of your head in the library…or someone cuts your head off…or simply ties you up and scans your head.

Back to top ▴