The security of the facial recognition feature on Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 smartphone has come into question, after a video was shared online that appears to show one of the handsets being unlocked by waving a photo of the user’s face in front of the camera.
The YouTube video embedded below, recorded at the S8 launch event, shows the registered user of the device presenting a picture of himself to the phone’s front-facing camera. After a couple of attempts, the phone recognizes the close-up selfie as the user’s face, and the lock screen is subsequently bypassed.
Last month it was reported that Samsung had decided to add facial recognition to the Galaxy S8 because of late doubts about the speed and reliability of the iris scanning feature also included in phone, so it’s possible that the software algorithms still require some fine-tuning. However, it’s more likely that Samsung’s cameras rely on standard 2D facial recognition technology, which past demonstrations have shown can be easily tricked with two-dimensional photos, suggesting use as a standalone authentication feature remains limited.
Indeed, in a statement given to ArsTechnica, Samsung explained that facial recognition cannot be used to authenticate mobile payments or to access the device’s Secure Folder, both of which require the use of the phone’s other biometric features.
The Galaxy S8 provides various levels of biometric authentication, with the highest level of authentication from the iris scanner and fingerprint reader. In addition, the Galaxy S8 provides users with multiple options to unlock their phones through both biometric security options, and convenient options such as swipe and facial recognition. It is important to reiterate that facial recognition, while convenient, can only be used for opening your Galaxy S8 and currently cannot be used to authenticate access to Samsung Pay or Secure Folder.
Apple is said to be including both iris scanning and a facial recognition feature in this year’s high-end “iPhone 8” device. The OLED iPhone is rumored to have a “revolutionary” front-facing camera system with infrared 3D sensing capabilities, which may go some way to overcoming the facial authentication limitations such as those found in Samsung’s device. Apple is also thought to be embedding its Touch ID fingerprint technology into a modified Samsung OLED display.