How to teach your iPhone to recognise you while wearing a mask

Cyber-security researchers have identified a hack that reportedly allows users to continue using their facial recognition while wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As the highly contagious virus continues to spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines that encourage Americans to wear facial coverings when in public.

For iPhone users, this has meant being unable to use their face ID to sign in or do other functions on their phones, as the phone’s technology does not allow it to be unlocked if the mouth and nose are blocked.

However, according to researchers at Tencent Security’s Xianwu Lab, who have been “studying biometrics for many years and have conducted in-depth analysis of Face ID,” there is a way to train your phone to you with a mask on – and all it requires is a new mask.

According to the researchers, the first step is to take the mask and fold it over, before covering just one side of your face with it.

“Take a brand-new mask, fold it in left and right, fold the two ear hook ropes and hang them on one ear (both left and right ears),” the researchers state, according to a translation.

Once you’ve finished placing the mask over one side of your face, you need to pull up Face ID on your phone, and can either choose to “Reset Face ID” or set up an “alternate appearance”.

In the video, the researchers show how to set up the facial recognition by triggering a “round framing picture of face input”.

“If the face mask is displayed on the mobile phone, it means that the face mask is too much. You can gradually reduce the pulling force while observing the screen until the circular viewfinder image of the face mask is triggered,” they explain.

While the researchers note the technique has a high success rate, even with iPhone 11 models, they acknowledge that the hack may not work in some instances, and that, so far, it has not worked for other mask styles, including “ordinary disposable medical masks, N95 masks, masks with breathing valves, etc” – as only masks made of soft materials are reportedly usable.

If you did want to use a cup-shaped mask, they add that although the “three-dimensional cup-shaped mask cannot be folded, in theory, a similar entry operation can be performed by cutting in half”.

According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should be worn in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores or pharmacies.”

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