In that post, I spotlighted Android’s new “Face Unlock” feature, which lets users unlock their handhelds by simply staring into their devices’ front-facing digital camera lenses. I also questioned the security of Face Unlock, and today it looks like I was correct in doing so.
Based on a video post on an Android news site (see the clip below), Android 4.0 devices, like the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, with the Face Unlock feature enabled can be unlocked using a simple image of the device owner. In other words, if you set up Face Unlock by snapping a picture of your own face, then hold up a similar photograph of yourself to your Android 4.0 handheld’s camera, the device will unlock itself. And a thief could also access data stored on your device in this way.
That’s obviously not good from a device security standpoint. Then again, Google never touted Face Unlock as a security feature, and I guess it simply should not be considered a secure way to lock your device.
But the problem is that many Android 4.0 users will want to use Face Unlock because they think it’s new, fun and cool—and it is all of these things. But those users may forego other security lock features, like alphanumeric passwords, so that they can use Face Unlock, therein reducing their overall Android security.
Android really isn’t designed to be a secure, enterprise OS, and that’s fine. But many consumers nowadays want to user their personal smartphones for work purposes, as well. And features like Android 4.0 Face Unlock make it difficult, if not impossible, for IT organizations to allow and/or support Android devices in the enterprise.
Bottom line: If you want your Android 4.0 smartphone to be as secure as possible, don’t use Face Unlock.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.