The ability of facial recognition systems to protect against someone trying to fool them is always a hot button topic. And now a new Fortune report goes into details about tests carried out by an AI company. The results show that some airport and payment systems can be fooled, but Apple’s Face ID cannot.
According to the report, a 3D mask was able to fool AliPay and WeChat, while just a photo was enough to fool airport systems.
The test, by artificial intelligence company Kneron, involved visiting public locations and tricking facial recognition terminals into allowing payment or access. For example, in stores in Asia—where facial recognition technology is deployed widely—the Kneron team used high quality 3-D masks to deceive AliPay and WeChat payment systems in order to make purchases.
Those systems, which resemble the ones seen in airports, use a person’s face rather than a PIN or a fingerprint to validate user’s identity. Such masks, in theory, could allow fraudsters to use another person’s face—and bank account—to go shopping.
More alarming were the tests deployed at transportation hubs. At the self-boarding terminal in Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands’ largest airport, the Kneron team tricked the sensor with just a photo on a phone screen. The team also says it was able to gain access in this way to rail stations in China where commuters use facial recognition to pay their fare and board trains.
The good news is that 3D masks are costly and aren’t something that most people are going to be able to get their hands on. That being said, anyone who is really trying to get past facial recognition systems may see the huge cost worth it, depending on what the pay off might be.
However, having a simple photo fool airport systems is more concerning, with almost anyone able to get their hands on relatively good quality images.
As for Apple’s Face ID, it seems that getting past an iPhone or iPad’s security systems is altogether more difficult. The iPhone X and newer all include Face ID, as does the iPad Pro.
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