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Is Facial Recognition the Most Secure Option for Your Smartphone?

With multiple options to secure your mobile device, what is the most secure? We run down the choices for you.

As our devices move forward technologically, so do our ways of protecting them from unwanted eyes. For Android devices, unlock patterns and pins have been around from almost the very beginning.  But, with the advent of more advanced facial recognition, how secure is it and should you be using it instead of a pin or pattern?

The Simple Option – Patterns
Back in 2009, when users were introduced to the second version of Android, known as ‘Eclair,’ individuals were treated to something sweet, the ability to unlock their phones with simple patterns. A grid of nine dots was presented to users, swiping between these dots in a specific manner would create an easy way to unlock your smartphone. It was a convenient solution that could be mastered with one hand on the go, but is it secure?

Read More: How Safe is it to Use Finger Recognition with Your Bank App?

Pattern unlock has remained on Android phones to this very day. However, don’t be fooled by a simple trick — unlocking your phone with a pattern is the most insecure option you could select. As with other authentication methods, it all starts with how complex of a pattern you choose, with most users opting for short ‘dot’ combinations or ones that could be easily guessed. Even with a complex passcode, your finger will typically leave oil trails on the screen that are easy to see, giving away your code. This is one ‘security’ method that’s best to avoid.

The Trusty Familiar – Pincodes
Pincodes remain a stable and secure option to protect your smartphone as long as best practices are followed. Choosing a four-digit code such as ‘1234’ or ‘1111’ is extremely easy to guess and won’t fool anyone attempting to break into your phone. The top recommendation for those creating a pincode is to use as many digits as possible. Older devices typically suggest four numbers, but newer smartphones will almost always default to six.

Again, how secure is this method of locking your phone? The answer is that it all depends on how complicated you choose to make your pincode. Avoid repetitive numbers, memorable dates, or other information that may be guessable if someone knows a bit about your background. Create a random six-digit code, and you’ll have a more secure solution to protect your data.

The New Kid on the Block – Facial Recognition
In recent years, facial recognition has hit the market. Introduced in 2011, Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich Android release brought about the ability for ‘Face Unlock.’ Android users could easily unlock their phones quicker than ever before. But, if this feature was released seven years ago — why is it just taking off now? The answer is simple; the technology was premature. Now, device manufacturers aren’t faced with the same limitations as before, and users have found facial recognition quite useful as it has advanced.

When it comes to facial recognition on Android devices though, it just isn’t the most secure at the moment. Trustworthy facial recognition is a careful marriage between hardware and software. Your experience will vary significantly between the smartphone manufacturer and the facial ID system being employed. As of now, we suggest keeping a secure passcode on your device as the majority of manufacturer solutions, including Samsung’s Iris unlock, have had their systems easily beat by photographs being held in front of the camera.

Another potential option is to protect specific content you care about most, like your photos or videos. Using solutions like dfndr vault’s premium facial recognition feature allows you to hide what matters most. For example, unlock your phone with a complex passcode and then add an extra step of facial recognition for your videos and photos. Consider it the perfect marriage of simplicity and security.