Samsung has confirmed that the in-display fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S10 as well as the Note 10 smartphones are experiencing a technical issue and that it is cause for concern of a significant security failure. It appears from reports that the very innovative feature which was supposed to improve security on these devices failed since any fingerprint can unlock them.
This week BBC reported on Samsung’s technical failure. Samsung stated that they are aware of the malfunctioning software on these named devices and that they are working on developing a software patch to resolve the issue. This will be released soon. Even though the fingerprint reader received a lot of praise once introduced, it soon became apparent after these devices became available in the market, that the development of the software wasn’t quite ready and still had to have some fine-tuning to be done. Now a software fix will have to make do to complete the expected features of these devices.
Issues with the Device
It appears that the problems with the scanner stem from the screen protectors used on the devices. Especially one particular kind of screen protector created concern when it was placed over the Qualcomm scanner. It is designed in such a way that there is a gap between the protector and the scanner even though it appears as if there is none and this was confusing for the scanner to read. The concerns were also worsened when the manufacturers of screen protectors tried to find a solution from their side. One such example was a gel screen protector which was available for purchase on eBay and resulted in destroying the device’s security feature. The cheap gel used in this protector caught on the fingerprint of the authorized user and stored it, and as soon as any level of pressure was applied, it would unlock the device.
Discovering the Concern
It was initially a user from the United Kingdom who found that the device could be unlocked with any finger applying the pressure when this gel protector is being used. The media soon caught on to this and Samsung had to respond. The magnitude of the concern is being emphasized through the many levels of security, which can be breached with this failure. Since the fingerprint scanner isn’t only applied to unlock the device, but also serves as biometric security for financial services and banking as well as other security applications on your device. Hence once the authorized fingerprint has been captured in the protector, the device’s security level dropped to none existing.
This further resulted in the KaKao Bank in South Korea, advising their customer’s to switch off the fingerprint-recognition function on their devices instead until Samsung solves the concern. Samsung’s initial response was to advise customers only to make use of Samsung approved accessories. Still, the issue has by now escalated so far that they are forced to take serious action towards a solution.