Google Finally Addresses Pixel 4 Face Unlock Flaw

Google has finally issued an update to resolve a flaw that was uncovered not by a security researcher, but actually a technology reporter for the BBC.

Back in October 2019, BBC technology reporter Chris Fox found that Google’s then newly launched flagship smartphone, the Pixel 4, had an issue with its face unlock feature, that could allow unauthorised access to the device.

The Pixel 4 (unlike its predecessors) did not contain a fingerprint sensor to handle authentication and security. Rather its only biometric system used for authentication was Face Unlock.

The Pixel 2 XL. Image credit: Google

Eyes wide shut

Fox found that unlike similar biometric unlocking systems found on devices from rivals such as Apple, Google’s Face Unlock did not detect if the person’s eyes were open.

Apple employs a similar face unlocking technology for its Face ID system on the iPhone X and its latest iPhone 11 models.

But it requires people’s eyes to be open in order to work.

A video of Fox unlocking the Pixel phone with his eyes shut can be found here.

He tested the feature on a number of different people, with the same result.

Google at the time seemed to rejected the idea that the eyes shut authentication was a problem, despite the fact that someone’s phone could be unlocked if they were asleep or otherwise incapacitated.

Instead Google reportedly said that concerned users wanting enhanced security, could switch on “lockdown” mode – which deactivated facial recognition.

Now over five months later, Google has updated the Pixel software on 6 April to address the issue, the BBC reported.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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