Google Pixel 4 Face Unlock Works If User Is Asleep

AuthentificationMobilitySecuritySmartphones
security vulnerability Shutterstock - © Andy Dean Photography

Eyes wide shut. New flagship Google phone can be unlocked if a person’s eyes are closed

Google’s newly launched flagship smartphone, the Pixel 4, has an issue with its face unlock feature, that could allow unauthorised access to the device.

It has been discovered that Pixel 4 owners can unlock their smartphones with their faces even if they have their eyes closed. This can be a problem as it can allow for unauthorised access if the person is asleep for example, or even dead in more extreme cases.

Samsung this week meanwhile acknowledged that its flagship device, the Galaxy S10, had a flaw with its fingerprint sensor, that could allow anyone’s fingerprint to unlock it, if the phone is using a third party screen protector.

Security issue

But unlike the Galaxy S10, the Pixel 4 (unlike its predecessors) does not contain a fingerprint sensor to handle authentication and security.

Instead the only biometric system it utilises for authentication is Face Unlock.

But it seems that unlike alternatives from rivals such as Apple, Google’s Face Unlock does not detect if the person’s eyes are open.

Ironically the flaw was not found by a security researcher, but rather a technology reporter for the BBC, Chris Fox.

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

He said the test had been carried out on a number of different people, with the same result.

It seems that prelaunch models of the Pixel 4 had a setting labelled: ‘Require eyes to be open,’ in the facial-recognition menu.

But this setting was not present on the devices loaned to BBC News.

And to make matters worse, Google reportedly told BBC News it would not feature on the Pixel 4 when it goes on sale, on 24 October.

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

It is worth noting that Apple employed similar face unlocking technology for its Face ID system on the iPhone X and its latest iPhone 11 models.

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

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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