Printed Masks Fool Airport Facial Recognition Technology, Researchers Discovered

AI solutions company, Kneron, fooled banks, border controls, and airport tech with their printed masks.
Fabienne Lang

Facial recognition is becoming more and more widespread as a security tool, from law enforcement to smartphones, and to corporations, it's being used to keep a close eye on who's accessing which locations or devices.

However, this security method may not be as foolproof as you may think.

Researchers from AI firm Kneron fooled facial recognition systems at border crossing checkpoints, banks, and airports by wearing printed masks of other people's faces, they announced on Thursday.


Facial recognition tools

Facial recognition systems have been welcomed with open arms in many airports as they decrease waiting times.

Quickly identifying people by scanning their faces and comparing them to their passport photos has made border crossing checkpoints convenient and efficient.

This is integral for security reasons, however, it looks like these systems aren't quite as unfailing as we give them credit for.

Kneron decided to put these technologies to the test and had researchers don printed masks showcasing different faces and then go through facial recognition systems.

It turns out these masks were able to fool the systems.

These weren't even intricately printed masks. However, it has to be noted that they weren't low-cost plastic ones found in costume stores of President Trump or the Queen of England.

Fooling the systems with printed masks

Testing systems across three different continents, Kneron's researchers wore masks depicting another person's face before proceeding to try and dupe the facial recognition tools.

Printed Masks Fool Airport Facial Recognition Technology, Researchers Discovered
Source: Izusek/iStock

They fooled payment tablets run by Chinese companies, AliPay and WeChat. They also duped a facial recognition system at a border crossing in China, as well as passing through Amsterdam's Schipol Airport systems in the Netherlands. 

It's a bit disconcerting that printed masks can fool such technology.

However, more sophisticated facial recognition technology such as light imaging wasn't able to be fooled so easily. The technology used by Huawei and Apple ID was not fooled when the researchers attempted to trick them.

Security guards had offered permission for the researchers to carry out the tests, which were supervised. There are usually people who are near the facial recognition machines, so one would hope they'd notice someone wearing a mask if the occasion were to arise. 

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