A 10-Year-Old Used Face ID to Gain Access to His Mother’s iPhone X

If you bought that shiny new iPhone X and are using Face ID for easy access to your phone and the applications within, you just might want to hold up that device to your family members’ faces to double check the new functionality doesn’t give them access, too.

On November 3, one Staten Island family was surprised to discover that their 10-year-old son was able to gain access to his mother’s just out-of-the-box iPhone X with just a glance, reports Wired.

Attaullah Malik, the father of the family, told Wired his son was also able to gain access to his iPhone X too, but only once. As for his wife’s iPhone X, Malik said they still don’t want to disable Face ID.

“It’s very convenient. But this is a lot of hassle in terms of privacy,” Malik said. A parent’s phone can offer access to everything within, including banking applications or text messages. To maintain their privacy as parents from their son, his wife has taken to deleting their text conversations.

In Apple’s support page on ‘Face ID advanced technology’, the company claims that the probability “a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000”. This is supposedly an improvement over Touch ID, where the probability is 1 in 50,000.

For Face ID, though, Apple says the statistical probability if you are a twin or have a sibling that looks like you is different. Apple also acknowledges that the probability is also different for children under the age of 13, “because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed.” In these instances, Apple recommends concerned users use a passcode.

While Face ID might not provide as much security for a 13-year-old wielding an iPhone X, it wasn’t previously known that a family face of similar resemblance, even years younger, could gain access.

“Apparently, TrueDepth camera’s depth map of my wife’s face, which was created by projecting and analyzing over 30,000 dots, wasn’t accurate enough as it worked with my 10-year-old son,” Malik wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

At Wired’s suggestion, Malik’s wife reconfigured her iPhone X Face ID. After her Face ID was reconfigured with a photo using better lighting, her son was no longer able to access her iPhone. But once she reconfigured it with a photo taken under darker conditions again, the problem returned.

The duo demonstrate the false positive Face ID the son’s face registers using the iPhone X in the YouTube video below.

“The take away here is that we need to understand the limitation of a small mainstream consumer device such as a smartphone to provide true biometric security and adopt it with that awareness in mind,” Malik concluded.

Cadence is a fintech reporter and writer at Fintech Unltd, where she covers the changing landscape of financial technologies. Previously, Cadence interned at Psychology Today, Business Insider and the Wisconsin State Journal. Cadence is interested in how science and technology intersect with power and culture and is curious about the world we are creating for tomorrow, consciously or not. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2017 with degrees in Journalism and Chinese. Send tips and story ideas to Cadence at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter @cadencebambenek.