Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FaceVault App Brings Facial Recognition Unlocking to iOS

FaceVault App Brings Facial Recognition Unlocking to iOS:

FaceVault keeps images locked up behind facial recognition and pattern code locks. Image: Christina Bonnington/Wired
If you’ve got compromising photos on your smartphone that you’d like to keep under lock and key, you’d be wise to stick them in a virtual safe-deposit box, and then remove them from your camera roll.
The new FaceVault app not only delivers this security scheme, but also uses a facial recognition-based software lock to keep out snoops. It’s similar to the Face Unlock system found in Android 4.0, and marks the first appearance of this type of security lock in iOS.

‬”The algorithm can ignore the fact that you’re wearing glasses or a new makeup look, and still unlock the app.” — Robert Neagu‪
‬Unfortunately, the system isn’t foolproof — it will sometimes grant access to unauthorized faces. And unlike Google’s implementation of Face Unlock, you can’t opt-out entirely in favor of a much more secure pattern-based unlocking system. But FaceVault does show us something we’ve never before seen in iOS, and that’s always cool.
The facial recognition feature uses your iDevice’s front-facing camera, and taps into server-side processing to analyze your mug with the Eigenface algorithm. I found that about 60 percent of the time, the app recognized my face, and let me into my sequestered photos. When the face-recognition lock doesn’t work, you’re passed off to a second screen, where you unlock the app with a pattern-based tap code.
It’s unfortunate that pattern recognition can’t be chosen as the default unlocking mechanism.
In the set-up screen for its face-based unlocking feature, the app cautions users about the effectiveness of the system: “Face recognition is less secure than a pattern lock. Someone who looks similar to you could unlock this app.” Google uses similar language with Face Unlock, but allows users to bypass facial recognition entirely.
Still, the Eigenface algorithm is quite advanced. “The algorithm can ignore the fact that you’re wearing glasses or a new makeup look, and still unlock the app,” Robert Neagu, the app’s creator told Wired via email. Neagu said that in low-light conditions, the facial recognition feature is easier to fool.
Previously, FaceVault was called FaceUnlock. A demo video showed how it could be used to unlock your iPhone in the same way Android’s Face Unlock grants access to the OS. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t allow this feature on its lock screen. So, after a few App Store rejections, Neagu limited the feature to the photo vault app itself.
Google’s Face Unlock feature has received criticism for being too easily gamed: To gain access to an Android 4.0 phone, one can simply present a photo of the authorized user to the Face Unlock interface, and system will often open up. Is FaceVault similarly insecure?
I tried to game the app with the same method, and was taken to its secondary pattern-based lock each time. So, no, the system wasn’t fooled by 2-D photography — at least in my limited testing regimen.
According to its patent filings, Apple has dabbled with facial recognition algorithms. None of the technology has been applied to system security, but jailbroken iPhones do have access to facial recognition tweaks.
Other than its clever security feature, FaceVault is a pretty straightforward photo vault app. When you first open it, you set up the facial-recognition lock, and then the back-up pattern lock. From here, you can start adding photos to albums.
The app keeps a photo record of every attempted opening, so you can see the face of anyone who tried to open the app when your back was turned. Once you’ve added a photo to the app, you’ll need to go back to your camera roll and delete it if you actually want to keep that photo private.
FaceVault, which only works with iOS devices that have a front-facing camera, is $1 in the App Store.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...