Over the years, the tech industry observed a gradual shift in how users can protect their devices from unwanted access. Passwords or a combination of patterns were adequate enough to deter anyone from access, but innovation would soon offer something else. Biometrics soon took over as fingerprint sensors and facial recognition systems grew in popularity. Apple recently shifted from its Touch ID platform to Face ID with the iPhone X and onward. As the COVID-19 pandemic urge people to wears masks, it presents a challenge for those who rely on the smartphone's face unlock function.

While it would seem easier to just pull down the mask to unlock the handset, this would pose a risk of coronavirus transmission. Thus, it appears that the only option is to disable it momentarily. Given the highly contagious nature of SARS-COV-2, even a short exposure without protection can immediately infect an individual. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued precautionary guidelines which include wearing masks when in public.

However, the Independent reports that cybersecurity researchers might have discovered a workaround that will still enable facial recognition even with a mask on. Originally, the Face ID will not function if the user's nose and mouth are covered. Hence, the team from Xianwu Lab owned by Tencent Security, claims to have discovered a way to help the system recognise facial features even when it is covered.

According to the researchers, the details require that users "take a brand-new mask, fold it in left and right, fold the two ear hook ropes and hang them on one ear (both left and right ears)." What follows is to have users launch Face ID and hold the mask on one side of their face. Next is to choose "Reset Face ID" or to set an "alternate appearance."

iPhone X
Researchers claimed to have already beaten Apple's new Face ID technology using just a mask. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The team then added, "If the face mask is displayed on the mobile phone, it means that the face mask is too much. You can gradually reduce the pulling force while observing the screen until the circular viewfinder image of the face mask is triggered." Users should be aware that this does not work with all types of masks.