08:03 21st Oct, 2019
Pixel 4 Security Flaw Leaves Google Red-Faced
Reports suggest that the flaw allows users to unlock the phone even if they keep their eyes closed. The question is will Google follow suit or proffer an explanation and a quick fix?)
Tim Cook has reasons to smile. Not just smile, one would readily pardon him if he lets out a few guffaws when he finds competition struggling with privacy issues at a time when Apple is shouting out loud from atop billboards that it is this very feature that differentiates the latest editions of iPhones and their operating systems from the others flooding the market.
Close on the heels of news about Samsung’s marquee smartphone the Galaxy S10 unlocking itself with any fingerprint come reports that Google’s latest offering, the Pixel 4 and Pixel XL 4, have an embarrassing issue related to privacy whereby users are able to unlock their devices even while keeping their eyes shut.
“This is, for obvious reasons, a privacy concern. It allows attackers or authorities to more easily gain access to a person’s device without their permission. Whether the user is asleep or restrained, the Pixel 4 only needs to be raised toward their face for someone to gain access,” says a report published on AndroidAuthority.com.
The story was first broken by BBC technology writer Chris Fox on Thursday last (two days after the launch of the Pixel 4 line. The writer posted a video of the flaw via his Twitter account and confirmed that Google was indeed aware of the flaw though at the time of the launch the company had reiterated that the Pixel 4 face unlock meets the security requirements of a strong biometric.
And this is where Tim Cook can be pardoned for letting out a series of guffaws! Apple’s Face ID system automatically checks for user alertness and ensures that she is looking at the screen before unlocking it. In fact, the company had gone to great lengths to promote it’s privacy features in the latest series of iPhones starting from the XS, the XR and now the 11 series.
Fox goes on to quote the Pixel 4 Product Manager Sherry Lin to suggest that there are only two face authorization solutions that meet the bar for being super secure. It’s the Pixel series and Apple. Unfortunately, upon testing, the BBC reported that with default settings, the phone still unlocked even if the user pretended to be asleep.
Is this something that Google should have avoided? The answer is a big YES because imagine how unsafe the phone becomes if someone can get you to unlock it even while you’re asleep and then clean up your bank? All it requires is to put the phone in front of the user’s face and it unlocks. Ironically, even Samsung’s Galaxy 10 is facing similar issues though with its fingerprint button.
In fact, contrary to what the many leaks had been proclaiming prior to the launch of the Pixel 4 line, the company’s support website now says this: “Your phone can also be used unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed.” The web page goes on to suggest that customers could switch to lockdown mode by deactivating facial recognition.
AndroidAuthority.com reported that while the latest software (Android 10) has built-in support for the facial unlock feature, the device isn’t supporting it to the full extent, leaving Google with a slightly embarrassing issue to deal with.
And deal with it did by suggesting to the above website that they do not have anything specific to announce regarding future capabilities, but that like most of their products, the feature is designed to get better over time with software updates.
If Tim Cook isn’t laughing his guts out at this response, we would indeed be surprised!
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