Researchers allegedly bypass Apple's Face ID using modified glasses

Face ID setup
Face ID setup (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Researchers have allegedly demonstrated how to bypass Apple's Face ID.
  • The method involves an unconscious participant and special glasses.
  • The exploit is said to take advantage of the "liveness" feature related to facial biometrics.

Researchers presenting at the 2019 Black Hat conference have revealed a possible flaw with facial biometrics, including Apple's Face ID. The exploit, however, isn't especially easy to pull off.

According to researchers, Face ID can be bypassed using modified glasses. To pull it off, you either need a willing participant or for the user to be unconscious.

Threatpost has the report:

By merely placing tape carefully over the lenses of a pair of glasses and placing on the victim's face the researchers demonstrated how they could bypass Apple's FaceID in a specific scenario. The attack itself is difficult, given the bad actor would need to figure out how to put the glasses on an unconscious victim without waking them up.

To bypass Face ID, researchers took advantage of the system's "liveness" feature, which detects if a person is looking at their device.

Researchers specifically honed in on how liveness detection scans a user's eyes. They discovered that the abstraction of the eye for liveness detection renders a black area (the eye) with a white point on it (the iris). And, they discovered that if a user is wearing glasses, the way that liveness detection scans the eye changes.

When a users is wearing glasses, Face ID doesn't extract 3D information from the eye, the researchers said. So, to bypass the liveness feature, researchers created modified glasses that uses black and white tape. They then demonstrated how to bypass Face ID and transfer money through mobile payments.

In a support document, Apple explains that Face ID was designed to protect against spoofing by masks and other techniques using anti-spoofing neural networks. It also specifically mentions its attention-aware feature as extra security.

Although researchers have seemingly found a way to bypass facial biometrics using modified glasses, there are a number of factors that make the possible exploit difficult to pull off.

Brandon Russell