On November 3, Apple released its new iPhone X and a few days later a group of researchers from Vietnamese cybersecurity firm Bkav has claimed to have hacked Apple’s Face ID facial recognition technology by using a 3D-Printed Mask that costs less than $150.
It’s not a joke, the “ultra-secure” Apple’s Face ID facial recognition technology implemented for the iPhone X is not as secure as the company claimed.
At iPhone X launch event, Apple’s Senior Vice President Phil Schiller claimed that Face ID can distinguish human’s real face from masks thanks to its artificial intelligence (AI). “They (Apple engineering teams) have even gone and worked with professional mask makers and makeup artists in Hollywood to protect against these attempts to beat Face ID. These are actual masks used by the engineering team to train the neural network to protect against them in Face ID. It’s incredible!”, Phil Schiller said (Apple’s Keynote September 2017, from 1:27:10 to 1:27:26).
The experts at the firm Bkav were able to unlock the iPhone X using a mask that re-creates the owner’s face through a combination of 3D printed mask, makeup, and 2D images some “special processing done on the cheeks and around the face.”
“The mask is crafted by combining 3D printing with makeup and 2D images, besides some special processing on the cheeks and around the face, where there are large skin areas, to fool AI of Face ID”.” said Mr. Ngo Tuan Anh, Bkav’s Vice President of Cyber Security.
The experts also published a proof-of-concept video, demonstrating how to unlock a brand-new iPhone X using the mask.
The mask is composed of silicone for the nose and 3D printing for some areas while special processing for others, the experts explained that they have understood how AI of Face ID works and how to bypass it.
“Many people in the world have tried different kinds of masks but all failed. It is because we understand how AI of Face ID works and how to bypass it,” an FAQ on the Bkav website said.
“You can try it out with your own iPhone X, the phone shall recognize you even when you cover a half of your face. It means the recognition mechanism is not as strict as you think, Apple seems to rely too much on Face ID’s AI. We just need a half face to create the mask. It was even simpler than we ourselves had thought.”
The researchers spent about five days after they got iPhone X on November 5th, the face used for the test belongs to one of the members of the team, and they haven’t’ trained the iPhone X to recognize any components of the mask.
“We used a popular 3D printer. The nose was made by a handmade artist. We use 2D printing for other parts (similar to how we tricked Face Recognition 9 years ago). The skin was also hand-made to trick Apple’s AI,” the firm said.
The researchers highlighted that creating such a mask to unlock someone’s iPhone is a time-consuming process, potential targets shall not be regular users, but persons of interest such as leaders of major corporations, national leaders, and billionaires.
Dan Goodin from ArsTechnica expressed some doubts about the hack, he believes the researchers and artist required the help of the target to create the mask.
“One way of reading the responses suggests that the researchers and artist required the help of the target to create the mask, but in the future, the researchers think it will be possible to design similar masks that will instead require only the aid of 3D scans or photographs that could be taken without the target’s knowledge or consent. If this interpretation is correct, the bypass is still interesting because it undermines Apple’s contention that only a live face can be used to unlock a Face-ID enabled phone. But a hack that requires the help of the target would nonetheless suggest that for the time being, Face ID remains relatively secure.” wrote Goodin.”
“Bkav researchers should publish a longer video that documents what was required to make the mask and whether it’s able to fool Face ID immediately after a real face has been enrolled. Until then, it’s impossible to say if this is a real hack.”
Waiting for improvements in the Apple’s Face ID facial recognition technology, it is possible to use a passcode as an alternative to biometric authentication.
(Security Affairs – iPhone X, Face ID)