Introduced with last year’s iPhone X, Apple’s Face ID has now become the standard for all of the company’s smartphones, being present in the recently-launched iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. While fingerprint sensors are always going to be far more convenient than facial recognition, Apple’s excuse for doing away with them on its smartphones is that Face ID is more secure and convenient. Debatable as that claim is, it seems the ‘feature’ is about to cause law enforcement officials dealing with suspects’ iPhones even more hassle, than it has in the past.
Elcomsoft, a Digital Forensics company, has advised police in the United States to avoid looking at iPhones (seized from criminals/suspects) secured with Face ID, in order to gain access to the information stored on them. That’s because doing so could disable facial recognition, forcing cops to unlock the device using a passcode, which are harder to obtain.
A slide from Elcomsoft’s Mobile Forensics presentation, shared by Motherboard, reads – ‘Don’t look at the screen, or else.. the same thing will occur as happened at Apple’s event.’
This refers to an incident during the iPhone X’s launch event, when Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President, failed to unlock a Face ID-secured demo unit of iPhone X with his face.
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It’s worth noting that Face ID attempts to authenticate a face up to five times, and if unsuccessful, the feature gets disabled automatically, requiring the passcode to be entered for unlocking the smartphone.
“With Touch ID, you have to press the button (or at least touch it). That’s why we recommend (in our trainings) to use the power button instead, e.g. to see if the phone is locked. But with Face ID, it is easier to use ‘accidentally’ by simply looking at the phone” Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, was quoted by Motherboard.