OnePlus, Samsung, LG smartphones fooled and unlocked by 3D face replicas of user

Only the iPhone X remained locked while the four Android phones were unlocked using the 3D face replica.


3D printers have been used to model many things from prosthetics to the human eye's cornea and much more. While there is little doubt that 3D printing as a technology is only growing, it can be used for some nefarious purposes as well, specifically unlocking a device which uses 3D face authentication.

OnePlus, Samsung, LG smartphones fooled and unlocked by 3D face replicas of user

The notch is present on the top of the XS Max housing all the necessary sensors for the Face ID. Image: tech2/Prannoy Palav

As per a report by Forbes, a 3D printer was commissioned by its reporter to make a 3D replica of his head to see if the 3D face authentication security mechanisms on smartphones held up or not. For this test, he used the iPhone X and four Android devices which were the LG G7 ThinQ, a Samsung S9, a Samsung Note 8 and OnePlus 6.

Only the iPhone X remained locked while the Android phones were unlocked using the 3D replica.

Does this mean that your Android phones with face authentication are vulnerable? Ever since iPhone made face recognition mainstream back in 2017, nearly all Android makers started emulating the Cupertino-giant by including their own versions of Face Unlock on Android devices.

While some smartphone makers such as Huawei and Oppo have included proper 3D face recognition on their flagship devices, other such as OnePlus and Samsung use a simplified 2D face map which can be fooled more easily. It is not the most secure way to unlock a device, albiet being really quick. Unlocking via a PIN, pattern or fingerprint on Android devices is still the safest option.

In the US, law enforcement agencies are using facial and finger biometrics to unlock smartphones says a report by TechCrunch. While your phone's password is protected by the 5th Amendment, law officials can still open your device by holding your device in front of your face or in front of 3D modelled replica of it.

Even so, Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, believes that this isn't the most cost-effective way for cops to get personal data from your phone.

“I think the big threat is that a system where anyone — cops or criminals — can get into your phone by holding your face up to it is a system with serious security limits.” he was quoted as saying to TechCrunch.