Although news broke last week of a Galaxy S10 bug that allows unregistered fingerprints to access the device, the security issue has actually been lingering around at least since April. Samsung has since offered official explanations, recommended DIY solutions, and pushed software patches for the problem. However the tech giants seem to be making a tongue-in-cheek admission that users may now have to ensure a tighter physical security for their devices due to this issue (at least in the short run). But users already have a lot on their plate dealing with phone plan issues malware protection, and other issues relating to their devices, keeping a weather-eye on their device might just make things easier for them.
The couple who called the attention of the mainstream media to the discovery of the bug reported that after registering her fingerprint with her phone fitted with a cheap silicone case, her husband was able to unlock the phone easily, though his fingerprints weren’t registered on the device.
According to Samsung’s official statement, the security breach occurs because the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner recognized three-dimensional patterns on certain silicone cases together with registered fingerprints. All users of Galaxy devices among the S10 and Note 10 lines using silicone covers and screen protectors have been officially implored to do away with such accessories. The directive also requests the users to wipe out all fingerprint data on the phone and then save their fingerprints again away from the cover. The company also went further to warn these Galaxy model owners to refrain completely from using silicone protectors until the necessary patches are meted out.
However, Galaxy S10 and Note 10 owners who do not use silicone covers or screen protectors may still not be completely off the hook. Some videos have emerged showing how a specific type of gel casing can unlock an S10 through sheer contact. These gel cases can be used as some sort of a Swiss knife, unlocking screen lock after screen lock regardless of how many times the registered fingerprint is changed.
The problem, therefore, goes beyond fingerprints registered over a silicone screen protector.
This is even more disturbing given that fingerprint sensors used in the Galaxy S10 and Note 10 lines, Samsung’s proprietary ultrasonic sensors, were believed to outperform the fingerprint sensors of the OnePlus flagship devices in terms of speed and accuracy. This issue also dates back to the launch of the Galaxy S10 line, when some owners complained about the phone’s in-display fingerprint sensor’s sensitivity issues. The owners could rarely unlock their phone’s screens with a single tap. But Samsung then responded to this issue with a software update which adjusted the fingerprint sensitivity of the devices to make unlocking easier for phone owners. However, it appears that this update later resulted in the bug that makes the devices vulnerable to silicone covers and some gel cases.
Also, this recent fingerprint bug might be linked to the discovery of 3D-printed fingerprints that breach Samsung’s untrasonic fingerprint scanners last April. As such, there’s sufficient reason to believe that this recent problem is bigger than just registering your fingerprints over a silicone casing. It begs the question why some cheap silicone or plastic accessory can circumvent the security system of Samsung’s flagship line of products. For all we know, this issue might just be the tip of the iceberg and there are many other bugs lurking underneath the devices which may likely come to light in the nearest future.
Many quarters are concerned about this worrisome development, and are taking measures on their own to neutralize the threats arising from it. For instance, South Korea’s KaKaobank has warned its customers not to log into their accounts on the platform using their Galaxy S10’s fingerprint scanner, at least until the issue is resolved effectively.
However, Samsung has pushed software updates for the Exynos Note 10+5G, which seems to quiet the noise of this bug complaints among owners of the device for now. The company also hopes to pull off a similarly effective update for the rest of Note 10 and S10 collection soon.
The company has also released official recommendations for users to avoid all third-party covers and screen protectors and use only Samsung authorized accessories.