Benefits and Risks of Smartphone Fingerprint Lock

Smartphone fingerprint lock

Fingerprint lock is currently one of the main means used to secure smartphones and other devices. On many smartphones it is used as an alternative to password/pin lock and by facial recognition.

More and more of today's smartphones feature fingerprint sensors, allowing users to configure one or more fingers. Its unlocking speed makes it preferred, along with facial recognition, to password and secret code (PIN) locking.

How does fingerprint lock on smartphone work?

This biometric system uses the fingerprint sensor (reader) of your smartphone to scan the external structure of your finger. You probably already know that each of your fingers has a unique structure. And it is this uniqueness that fingerprint technology uses to identify you.

Read also: Benefits and risks of facial recognition on a smartphone.

Types of fingerprint sensors

To add fingerprint lock to their devices, smartphone manufacturers currently use two main types of sensors. Optical fingerprint sensors and ultrasonic fingerprint sensors.

The optical fingerprint sensor : It records the ridges and furrows of the user's finger as an "image" in very high resolution. The data relating to the finger will then be stored on the phone's memory and will be used each time you attempt to unlock.

The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor : More precise and more expensive than the optical sensor, it also records the ridges and furrows of the user's finger. It does this by emitting waves that propagate through the surface of the fingers. The sensor will thus carry out a "mapping" of the finger and record its structure.

The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor provides more identification accuracy and is therefore more expensive. In short, here is how fingerprint locking works on smartphones, and on any device equipped with a fingerprint reader:

When you first set up your finger on your device, the sensor records its structure. With each attempt to unlock with your finger, the reader will analyze it and compare it to yours. Unlocking will only be performed if it is your finger.

Advantages of fingerprint lock on smartphone

It is a technology that simplifies, facilitates the process of unlocking. In a few milliseconds, that's it, the phone is unlocked. The major advantage of fingerprint locking is the fact that it requires the physical presence of the person to be identified.

Because of this, you will be the only person who can unlock your phone. With the fingerprint lock on a smartphone, it's either you who unlock it, or no one else. This brings it very close to the facial recognition.

Read also: Why use lock with PIN or password ?

Risks of fingerprint lock on smartphone

Unlocking with the fingerprint is not without risk. In fact, your fingerprint is not immune to counterfeiting. We leave our fingerprints on almost everything we touch. Whereas, unlike the password, your fingerprints remain the same all your life.

To circumvent fingerprint locking, certain techniques consist in recovering the digital data of a fingerprint or in taking it from an object to use it to form an artificial finger, with the same characteristics as that of the target person.

The biggest flaws of this lock mode are; the failure of the fingerprint reader, a reading error and, above all, a possible deformation or loss of the user's fingerprint. The reader may not be able to read your fingerprint correctly.

Speaking of deformation, fingerprint loss, it could be an injury/burn to the finger configured to unlock the phone. This would prevent you from accessing your device, unlocking it. Although it is possible to have two or more different fingers configured there.

It is also not impossible that with the fingerprint you give access to your phone without wanting it. Contrary to password and PIN code that no one can prick in your mind. Password and PIN, when used correctly, are still the most reliable methods of securing a device.

Mobile phone manufacturers are well aware of all these weaknesses of fingerprint lock. This is why they offer password/PIN unlocking as an alternative, in case the fingerprint system malfunctions.

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