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Cellphones Android China Displays Privacy Security Hardware

'I Tried the First Phone With An In-Display Fingerprint Sensor' (theverge.com) 70

Vlad Savov from The Verge reports of his experience using the first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner built into the display: After an entire year of speculation about whether Apple or Samsung might integrate the fingerprint sensor under the display of their flagship phones, it is actually China's Vivo that has gotten there first. At CES 2018, I got to grips with the first smartphone to have this futuristic tech built in, and I was left a little bewildered by the experience. The mechanics of setting up your fingerprint on the phone and then using it to unlock the device and do things like authenticate payments are the same as with a traditional fingerprint sensor. The only difference I experienced was that the Vivo handset was slower -- both to learn the contours of my fingerprint and to unlock once I put my thumb on the on-screen fingerprint prompt -- but not so much as to be problematic. Basically, every other fingerprint sensor these days is ridiculously fast and accurate, so with this being newer tech, its slight lag feels more palpable. Vivo is using a Synaptics optical sensor called Clear ID that works by peering through the gaps between the pixels in an OLED display (LCDs wouldn't work because of their need for a backlight) and scanning your uniquely patterned epidermis. The sensor is already in mass production and should be incorporated in several flagship devices later this year.
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'I Tried the First Phone With An In-Display Fingerprint Sensor'

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  • What a boring article.

  • Is it reliable? Does it recognize my fingerprint every time and every other fingerprint none of the time?

    • And how reliable is it if I use a potato peeler to remove your fingertips? Can I use those flesh slices get in to your phone?

      I'm not cruel, so I'm not going to remove your entire finger. Or hand.

      Or arm.

      • And how reliable is it if I use a potato peeler to remove your fingertips? Can I use those flesh slices get in to your phone?

        You can leave that peeler at home sir! Since this fingerprint scanner is entirely optical, it should be very easy to fool with a lifted fingerprint reprinted onto anything.

    • I'm more interested in what happens to the biometric data. If the fingerprints of anyone touching your smartphone go somewhere in the cloud where they can be queried on demand, then metadata analysis just got itself a new tool.

      • It's NOT a 'picture' of a fingerprint. It is hash of certain properties pulled off the scanner. Those properties are going to be unique to that type of scanner and possibly each individual unit.

        You can't send the info to the FBI so they can place it in the 'pre pedo' data file.

        So you're off the hook for now.

        • I wonder if you understand how fingerprint matching can be made to work. It may be possible to make this mechanism safe but your argument won't be enough.
          On the smartphone you reconstruct the match with the hash and some specific data, then if you can upload this specific data together with the hash, how are you going to avoid that another fingerprint, maybe your own, is checked for a match with your hash?

          If you can reconstruct the match you have a functional database for looking up fingerprints.

    • No one cares how fast it is until it's not as fast as expected and seemingly laggy.

  • Aren't optical scanners rather easy to fool? Some earlier scanners were vulnerable to a "replay attack" that was simply breathing on the scanner after someone else had used it. The iPhone scanner uses capacitance: not unhackable though it is a quite bit harder. I can imagine it's hard to integrate such a scanner in the screen though; apparently Apple gave up on that.
  • by elwinc ( 663074 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @07:23AM (#55899439)

    Honestly, why is a fingerprint scanner built into the display better than one on the back? On my phone, the scanner is high up in the center of the back, right where my index finger goes naturally when I grab the phone. This makes one-handed operation smooth and easy.

    Seems to me a scanner on the front is just an ergonomically inferior gimmick. Perhaps some enlightened soul can cure my ignorance...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I often leave my phone on the desk. To unlock it, I just touch my finger to the home button (this is an older model iPhone). If the scanner is on the back, I'd have to pick up the phone first. Which is of course a huuuge inconvenience...

      But seriously, the Home button is a good place for the scanner, since that's what you click to wake up the phone; that way you unlock it at the same time. It's fast and completely seamless, as if there's no lock on the phone at all. Of course the new iPhone has no ho
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Gotta say I love the location of the fingerprint scanner on my Sony Xperia Z5. It's on the power button which is in the middle of the right side of the phone. It's exactly where I'd have a finger or thumb resting anyway (depending on which hand the phone is in)

      • by elwinc ( 663074 )

        Thank you, Jared, now I understand.

        Speaking only for myself, I am forgetful enough that if I don't immediately return the phone to one pocket or another, disaster may ensue. (Of course, this assumes the continued existence of phones so tiny they actually fit in pockets!) My phone unlocks when the appropriate finger touches the sensor on the back as I reach into a pocket, but I can see how face-up phone storage would imply different optimizations.

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      When the phone's on a surface or in a mount (like in a car) the back might not be accessible.
    • when I grab the phone.

      You grab the phone? Mine is lying on my desk and wakes when I hit the home button (finger print reader). Not to mention something in a visible location is far easier to use than something out of sight.

      "Ok Google, read me my calendar."

      "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that."
      "Dave? Why is your heart rate rising? Dave you may want to remove your finger from the heartrate sensor Dave."
      "No there Dave, if you leave your finger there you won't be able to take a photo Dave."

  • When are we going to see bio-metrics treated as ID, not auth? Until then, the fact that my phone has a sensor is useless to me.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @07:48AM (#55899509)

    ...Where a cellphone-unlocking fingerprint sensor can be called "traditional."

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:49AM (#55899671) Homepage Journal
    Now that it's shown to be possible to scan a fingerprint without an obvious fingerprint scanning area, be ready for the fingerprint wars. Any touchscreen anywhere, from a gas station pump to an ATM to a plain glass door, could be outfitted with a collection device to gather all our greasy fingertip data. And with the courts assuming that you have no expectation of privacy with third party data, everywhere is open season for state actors.
    • Any touchscreen anywhere, from a gas station pump to an ATM to a plain glass door, could be outfitted with a collection device to gather all our greasy fingertip data. And with the courts assuming that you have no expectation of privacy with third party data, everywhere is open season for state actors.

      On the one hand, thanks for pointing out a potential danger I hadn't thought of. On the other hand, thanks for ruining my day... :(

    • I still have several knuckles that I can use to activate those touchscreens...
    • Now that it's shown to be possible to scan a fingerprint without an obvious fingerprint scanning area, be ready for the fingerprint wars. Any touchscreen anywhere, from a gas station pump to an ATM to a plain glass door, could be outfitted with a collection device to gather all our greasy fingertip data. And with the courts assuming that you have no expectation of privacy with third party data, everywhere is open season for state actors.

      What exactly is an "an obvious fingerprint scanning area?" I really don't think there was anything preventing door handles or whatever from having scanners in them already.

  • If this becomes the norm to where you can't buy one without it, I'll start selling finger anonymizers... otherwise known as fingertip condoms. Because I don't want my fucking finger print in your database or in any device that I'm not root and have full control of.

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @09:19AM (#55899809)
    But a 3rd tier company did. (BBK electronics...Oppo, OnePlus, Vivo). You can bet if Apple comes up with one at a later date, it will be applauded as "stellar" and "cutting edge". I think they have so much invested in that silly look at the phone thingy, they won't ever do it though.
    • I don't see the problem with Apple's face ID or having a fingerprint sensor on the back or the front (how about back and front?) but integrated in the screen?

      Surely this is just a case of we can so we did?

      Inventing poorly implemented features for a problem that doesn't really exist is so old-school. Like whistling to find your keys "hold on, it will work as long as I get the correct pitch, at a high-enough volume and I'm within 3 feet of the fob. And the battery hasn't run flat"

      • for a problem that doesn't really exist

        Before you say it's a problem that doesn't exist you should read some reviews or better still try a device which has a fingerprint reader on the back.

    • The journalist acknowledges that the in-screen reader feels clunky. That seems like a good reason for Apple to stay away from it. If they're able to one day make it work as snappily as current implementations of TouchID, it would right to applaud it as "cutting edge."
    • Apple did have prototypes with behind the glass fingerprint readers. But they realized how much better FaceID would be, and they threw everything they had into making it work...

      That was the right choice. TouchID is an archaic technology now, a relic of the old times.

  • For a long time I used face recog on my S8+. It was neat. But there are reasons why the security settings suggest turning it off in order to enhance security. If someone wants to access the data on your phone, all they need is the phone and the user - being held under duress? - or a really good picture. Likewise with the finger print scanner you can physically force someone to unlock their phone even if they don't want to, or use a lifted fingerprint. I never tried the photo bypass, but I was able to lift a
    • If you're the user of a device and are being held under duress, the only thing that's going to protect your data is the ability to quickly and covertly delete it all. Even a PIN isn't secure against rubber hose cryptanalysis [wikipedia.org].

      Your facial recognition concerns seem more about the S8's implementation than about facial recognition itself. Compare to the iPhone X which will show you your notifications if you bypass FaceID but now actually unlock the phone until you swipe up. It also requires that you actually

  • I wanted the video and it looks interesting.... however, I would bet a broken screen = a bricked phone.
    • In every smartphone biometric implementation that I can think of, you can enter a PIN if biometrics fail or are unavailable.
  • Sound like a great way to quietly build a biometric database.
  • Vivo is using a Synaptics optical sensor called Clear ID that works by peering through the gaps between the pixels in an OLED display

    1984. Exactly.

  • Biometric authentication uses authentication credentials that are almost public and cannot be revoked. The challenge for the attacker is only to reproduce them, and once done, the system needs to be replaced, since there is no "password change".

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