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Face Scan Signs You In Facebook, Netbank & More

Now it seems mundane everyday reality has caught up with the glitz of science fiction as smartphones and laptops gravitate towards facial recognition.

The first taste of facial recognition was delivered to mass markets by leviathan innovator Google, who incorporated the feature into its mobile Android OS. Called Face Unlock, all a user has to do to unlock their smartphone is smile at the camera. The smartphone’s front-facing camera captures a pic, scans it and then promptly unlocks the phone. I’ve used it on many occasions, and although I believe it’s largely a gimmick, it is one that works.

Ultimately, Face Unlock is meant to be an alternative security measure. Unfortunately it’s been revealed a 2 dimensional photo of the phone’s owner could fool the smartphone into being unlocked. The question remains then, is facial recognition the right technology to replace passwords?


Some entrepreneurs from the digital age think so. The company Viv.ie aims to release a facial recognition program that’ll substitute passwords for a quick face scan by August of 2012.

The company’s co-founder, 17-year-old Niall Paterson, is working with his colleagues/friends on software which he hopes will “destroy” passwords.

“I was on Facebook logging in with my password which is 21 characters long and I got it wrong and I thought that there had to be a better way,” said Niall in an interview with Stuff NZ.

“Instead of using passwords the aim . . . will be that passwords will be eliminated and you will be able to log in just using your face.

“A web camera would take a picture of your face, analyse it, and if you’ve been registered already, log you in.”

Although it sounds promising—freeing up endless brain space otherwise occupied by alphanumeric passwords that feature capital letters and special characters—security experts are poking holes in the theory.

Paul Ducklin of Sophos security firm believes “a 2D picture of a face will sort of be exposed [by the software],” despite Viv.ie’s unsupported claims that the software is “impossible to crack.”

However, there is a general consensus that passwords are no longer the most viable form of security, considering the average person has to memorise so many different passwords for a myriad of accounts.

Security expert James Turner from Intelligent Business Research Services believes passwords are “redundant and bankrupt.”

“It just doesn’t work for the number of sites and resources that your typical person uses personally, and then you include corporate [resources] and it just becomes a nightmare.”

Turner believes the security industry is in “desperate” search of a unifying and secure substitute. So far, Biometrics and its featured facial recognition have “caused a great deal of appeal.”

Although a promising avenue, the risks associated with compromised biometric data has crippled its widespread implementation.
“I can change my fingerprint ten times and then I’m stuffed. I can change my iris once to the other eye, and then if that’s compromised I’ve got no options. [As for] my face, I don’t have any options there.”

If biometrics security is to become a part of everyday life, Turner believes it would have to operate in conjunction with another security component, such as a smartphone. A smartphone could feature a digital certificate and communicate with devices through its in-built NFC technology.

In this case, the smartphone would be a tech-savvy version of the “click here if you forgot your password” link. In the event your biometric account was compromised, your smartphone could be used as verification that you are the account holder.

Additionally, if your smartphone is stolen, a simple report to your carrier could see it bricked and the digital certificate changed.

“The simple reality is that biometrics are a convenient form of authentication because you’re carrying it with you all of the time, whether it’s your voice, your face, your fingerprints or your iris.”