8 Things You Need to Know Before Using iPhone X’s Face ID

In iPhone X, Apple has replaced Touch ID with a new authentication method called Face ID. Here are eight things you need to know about Face ID before you decide whether to use it on business phones.


Smartphones are a convenient tool for employees to use, especially when they travel for business. They can use the devices to check their emails, call customers, and even pay for trip expenses. Smartphones’ portability, though, makes them prone to loss or theft. A smartphone can easily fall out of a pocket or be stolen out of a handbag. For this reason, it is important to lock smartphones and use a secure authentication method to unlock them.

In iPhone X, Apple has replaced Touch ID with a new authentication method called Face ID. Both Touch ID and Face ID use biometric authentication, which means they rely on individuals’ unique biological features to verify that they are who they claim to be. With Face ID, an individual’s facial features are used for verification, whereas Touch ID uses individuals’ fingerprints. Apple maintains that Face ID is not only more convenient but also more secure to use than Touch ID. However, security experts and even Apple recognize that Face ID’s security is not infallible.

Here are eight things you need to know about Face ID so that you can decide whether you and your employees should use it to unlock company-provided iPhones:

1. Face ID Is More Advanced Than Its Predecessors

Apple is not the first company to use facial recognition for authentication. Other companies have developed facial recognition systems. More often than not, people have demonstrated how these systems can be fooled. For example, a web developer showed how he used 2-D selfies to fool the facial recognition system in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. Similarly, security researchers from the University of North Carolina created digital 3-D facial models from publicly available Facebook photos and displayed them with mobile virtual reality technology to defeat four facial recognition systems.

Apple’s Face ID uses more advanced technologies than its predecessors, though. For instance, its TrueDepth camera projects and reads more than 30,000 infrared dots to create a depth map and a 2-D infrared image of the face, so Face ID cannot be fooled by pictures. The infrared technology also allows Face ID to work when you are indoors, outdoors, or even in total darkness.

2. Face ID Learns More about Your Face Each Time You Use It

Every time you use Face ID, it uses neural networks to learn more about your face. As a result, it will recognize you even if you wear glasses instead of your usual contacts or put on a hat. It also updates your facial details as you age.

3. People Cannot Use Face ID to Open Your iPhone When You Are Sleeping

You must have your eyes open and be looking at your smartphone for Face ID to work. This prevents someone from opening the device by pointing the phone at your face while you are sleeping.

4. Do Not Use Face ID If You Have an Evil Identical Twin

According to Apple, the odds that another person’s face will unlock your device is one in a million. Apple admits, though, that the odds are greater for identical twins and siblings who look alike. A test by a Wall Street Journal tech columnist showed that identical triplets did fool Face ID, while paternal twins did not. So, if you have an evil identical twin (or you simply do not want them to be able to access your phone), use a passcode rather than Face ID for authentication.

5. Some Sophisticated Masks Can Fool the System

Less than a month after iPhone X’s release, security researchers at Bkav demonstrated how a sophisticated mask can fool Face ID. First, the researchers used a 3-D printer to create the frame for a mask designed to look like the face of one of the researchers. Then, they applied a handmade silicone nose, 2-D images for other parts of the face, makeup, and special processing on the cheeks and other large areas of skin. The mask tricked Face ID into opening the researcher’s iPhone.

However, a test conducted by the Wall Street Journal tech columnist had different results. A special effects shop created a silicon mask of the columnist’s face, which an assistant put on. The mask did not trick Face ID into opening the columnist’s iPhone.

6. The Data about Your Face Is Not Stored in the Cloud

All the facial recognition data created and used by Face ID is stored in your smartphone. It is not stored by Apple or backed up to iCloud. Given that data breaches are common, this is a good thing. As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach in 2015 showed, cybercriminals are interested in biometric data. They stole the fingerprint data of more than 5 million people during that breach.

7. Face ID Supplements Rather Than Replaces Passcodes

Using Face ID is optional. It is meant to supplement rather than replace passcodes. In fact, to use it, you must set up a passcode.

Once you set up Face ID, it will unlock your smartphone without asking for the device passcode when it recognizes your face. However, there are certain times when a passcode is required:

  • You just turned on or restarted your smartphone.
  • You have not unlocked your phone for more than 48 hours.
  • You have not used your passcode to unlock the device in the last 156 hours (six and a half days) and Face ID has not unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.
  • There have been five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.
  • Your smartphone received a remote lock command.
  • You initiated the Emergency SOS feature the last time you used your phone.

8. Face ID Can Authenticate Apple Pay Purchases

Face ID replaces Touch ID for authenticating Apple Pay purchases. Face ID also works with iTunes, the App Store, and some third-party apps. If you are uncomfortable with using Face ID to verify your identity when making purchases, you can disable it for this purpose. You will still be able to use Face ID to unlock your phone.

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Posted by Ben Spector on 19-Apr-2018 22:40:07
Ben Spector
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