Unlocking Phones of Masked Users

Apple’s upcoming upgrade to iOS 14.5 will make it possible to use an Apple Watch to use facial recognition to unlock your iPhone while wearing your mask. iPhone users without the watch and Android users will still have to jump through hoops to unlock their phones while masked. A year into the pandemic, we have to ask: Why has this taken so long?

Biometrics have long played a role in being able to unlock a cell phone. The first systems used a fingerprint for touch ID, and it has been a bellwether. Many cell phone users still rely on it. Face ID came along next, and many cell phone users rely on it to unlock phones quickly and easily. It’s as good as unencumbered gets.

But with COVID-19 and mask wearing, Face ID doesn’t work. If you want to use the technology while complying with public health needs, Face ID is about as cumbersome as it gets. The less-than-ideal workaround is something like this:

  1. Go to the Face ID option in the settings.
  2. Register for an alternate appearance by going to Set Up Alternate Appearance (or the Reset Face ID).
  3. Take a mask and fold it in half. Assuming the nose as the center point, put it in front of your face. It is recommended that you cover only the tip of the nose with the mask.
  4. Start registering your face like you normally do with the Face ID.  When the system prompts with a message “Face Obstructed,” start removing the mask very slowly until the system says move your head slowly to complete the circle.
  5. Once the process is done successfully, you will get a message that the Face ID is set up.

If this doesn’t work the first time, you’ll need to retry it. You may need to try another trick, such as selecting an alternate appearance option if it’s available.

Apple contends you should use a numeric code to unlock your phone while wearing a mask. They also note that manipulating the Face ID software could compromise your phone’s security. Most likely, they’d prefer you get an Apple Watch if you don’t already have.  

Once your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 and your Apple Watch has WatchOS 7.4 installed, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and then select Face ID & Passcode. Next, scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. The name of your Apple Watch should be listed there. Next to it is a toggle to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app. 

Whenever you’re wearing a mask, all you’ll need to do is hold your phone up as normal to unlock it with Face ID. You’ll feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch was used to unlock your phone. The alert on your watch will also include a button to lock your phone in case it was unlocked by someone else. It’s a security feature to ensure someone else doesn’t pick up your phone and unlock it while wearing a mask.

You can expect to see iOS 14.5 in April. As the release date gets closer, we’ll pass along whatever we find out about other security features. Once it’s available, we’ll be on hand to help you configure your watch, phone and iPad if need be. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to find out what you’ll need to upgrade your iOS security.

Security and Convenience

Major retailers have been vulnerable to security breaches because we want convenience. New credit card systems that rely on chips instead of magnetic strips will help solve the security issue and so will Apple’s new ApplePay, which uses NFC (Near Field Communications) technology.

There won’t be any need to open an app or even wake your display because of the combination of NFC and the antenna in iPhone 6. To pay, just hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID. You don’t even have to look at the screen to know your payment information was successfully sent. A subtle vibration and beep lets you know.

Instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers the system assigns a unique Device Account Number that is encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone. These numbers are never stored on Apple servers. When you make a purchase, the Device Account Number, along with a transaction-specific dynamic security code, is used to process your payment. So your actual credit or debit card numbers are never shared by Apple with merchants or transmitted with payment.

If your iPhone is ever lost or stolen, you can use Find My iPhone to quickly put your device in Lost Mode so nothing is accessible, or you can wipe your iPhone clean completely.

This is a major step toward convenience and security. Another step will be the replacement of that magnetic strip on your credit with chip technology already in use in most of the world. Again, it will separate your credit and debit card info from the info stored by retailers.

Retailers’ storage of your transactions and credit and debit card info has given you the convenience of being able to return merchandise without a receipt. It also presented a plump, juicy target for hackers. Banks, which bear the liability of covering the cost of fraud, are behind efforts to speed up the conversion to this new technology. Their goal, of course, is to minimize their risk, and they’ll minimize ours, too.

New credit and debit cards will be better for those of us who still carry them around in our wallets. Apple Pay and evolving technologies will help us get rid of our wallets all together – and probably our keys, too.

Millennials are driving device technology. They don’t like to bother with carrying wallets and keys and anything else they deem bulky. The changes are likely to trickle down to the rest of us, especially as we find them to be secure and convenient.

While the new technology looks great, there are other steps you can take now to protect your data. We’ve discussed these measures before:

  • Strengthen your password. The greater the combination you can use of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters, the longer it will take for hackers to crack your password.
  • Use two-factor authentication for Internet access to your data. It’s a second password, a reference to a graphic symbol or an answer to a question. Dropbox now offers it, and you can click here to learn more.
  • Look before you click. Use common sense when clicking on websites or opening attachments to email. If something doesn’t look right or feel right, leave it alone.
  • Make sure your protection is up to date and running. Anti-virus programs, malware programs and firewalls for home and office systems can prevent unwanted problems and intrusions. Make sure you have all systems up to date and turned on.

Now you can buy your new iPhone 6 or 6+ and enjoy the benefits of Apple Pay and NFC – whenever the technology is activated, most likely in October.

What your thoughts on this? How willing are you to embrace this new technology? Share your thoughts with us. And if you have any questions about buying an iPhone 6 or 6+ or any other phone, tablet or computer and getting them all to work together, drop us an email or give us a call at 973-433-6676.