How to Fool Apple's Face Recognition Technology

Apple CEO Tim Cook holds an iPad during a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino California

The firm said it only meant to show a "proof of concept" that Face ID can be skirted and that such techniques would not target regular users but more likely "billionaires (and) leaders of major corporations".

A Vietnamese cybersecurity firm claims to have hacked through the new iPhone X's Face ID security system by using a 3D-printed mask.

In addition to features such as keeping track of changes in facial appearance, Apple also offers an anti-spoofing software to stop Face ID trickery.

Researchers at the security firm Bkav have claimed that they can fool Face ID with a custom-made mask. Several users have pointed out that the Face ID lock icon at the top doesn't open when the phone is facing the mask.

Bkav calls its hack proof of concept, "the goal of which is to prove a principle".

IBTimes UK has reached out to Bkav and Apple for comment and is awaiting a response.


The iPhone X is the first iPhone on the market with Face ID facial recognition technology. All in all it cost $150 to make Bkav states that its researchers used a "popular 3D printer", for the facial frame, with a nose "made by a handmade artist". "These are actual masks used by the engineering team to train the neural network to protect against them in Face ID". Bkav admits this openly in a Q & A on its hack, noting that "Potential targets shall not be regular users, but billionaires, leaders of major corporations, nation leaders and agents like Federal Bureau of Investigation need to understand the Face ID's issue".

What's registered on BKAV's iPhone X's Face ID?

Apple wrote in a white paper on Face ID that it is smart enough to know when it's looking at a mask.

Attackers would need to gain physical access to a powered-on iPhone X as well as launch a successful attack within 48 hours. 'It will not affect the truth that Apple Face ID is not an effective security measure'. The device unlocks smoothly and rapidly. The question is: do iPhone X owners actually have to worry about it? "And until all of these wrinkles are out of biometrics, we have the problem that once copied, unlike passwords, you can't change it".

It only acknowledged that when Face ID was set up on the fooled device, "it learns from human face, just like normal". But biometrics remains a cat-and-mouse game (see Biometrics: Advances Smack Down Workarounds). "It makes an excellent way of hacking high-value targets - something criminals are doing in increasing numbers".

Without further testing it's not possible to corroborate this claim, but given that both these methods require a back-up PIN or password you might be best off skipping biometric security altogether if the contents of your iPhone are that sensitive.

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