Android's Face Unlock security on the Samsung Galaxy S3 can be tricked into unlocking the phone by showing it a photograph of the owner.


In a test carried out by IBTimes UK, we found that the Galaxy S3 cannot distinguish between a photograph and a real person, leading us to suggest users should select a more secure way of locking the phone, such as with a PIN or password.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released late last year, and it was soon discovered that its face unlock feature could be defeated with a photograph, despite Google's Tim Bray stating on Twitter that it was not possible.

"Nope. Give us some credit," Bray said in October, after being told by app developer Koushik Dutta that "the face recognition unlock thing is really easily hackable. Show it a photo."

That was on the first smartphone to run Ice Cream Sandwich, the Galaxy Nexus, and before Samsung rolled out Android 4.0 to its other smartphones it claimed that updates to the face unlock system meant that the user must blink before access is granted.

"In response to security issues raised regarding Face Unlock, Samsung incorporated blinking for added security," the company said on its official blog in March.

Face Unlock is configured by taking a photo of the owner and entering a PIN as backup in case the phone is unable to recognise you. Samsung suggests that you take several photos of yourself - with and without glasses, for example - to improve accuracy.

IBTimes UK has contacted Samsung about our findings and the company replied with the following statement: "Samsung classifies Face Unlock as a low-protection security feature as they continue to test and improve on this feature.

"Face and Voice unlock solution enhances security, where it requires you to say a command as well as recognising a face. This helps to reduce the risk of unlocking the handset by Face Unlock through using a photograph. Yet, Face and Voice unlock solution is still classified as a low-protection security feature.

"Therefore, users with sensitive information on their phone are advised to use higher-protection security features, such as pattern, pin, or password unlock."

With smartphones becoming more and more powerful and holding more and more of users' personal information, security is seen as more important than ever. Therefore users should be made more aware that the Face Unlock feature is easily hackable and ensure they have another level of security enabled.

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