The facial recognition-based authentication system in Windows Hello has been bypassed by researchers using a printed photo, but the method does not work in the latest versions of Windows 10.
Windows Hello, a feature available in Windows 10, allows users to quickly and easily log into their devices using their face or fingerprints. The face authentication system uses near-infrared (IR) imaging and it’s advertised by Microsoft as “an enterprise-grade identity verification mechanism.”
Researchers have demonstrated on several occasions that face authentication can be bypassed, but some systems, such as Apple’s Face ID, are more difficult to bypass than others. In the case of Windows Hello, experts managed to bypass facial authentication using only a photograph of the legitimate user printed in a certain way.
Matthias Deeg and Philipp Buchegger of Germany-based penetration testing firm SySS managed to conduct successful attacks using low-resolution near-IR photos even with the “enhanced anti-spoofing” feature enabled, which should make it more difficult to trick the system.
“By using a modified printed photo of an authorized user, an unauthorized attacker is able to log in to or unlock a locked Windows 10 system as this spoofed authorized user,” the researchers said in an advisory. “Thus, by having access to a suitable photo of an authorized person (frontal face photo), Windows Hello face authentication can easily be bypassed with little effort, enabling unauthorized access to the Windows system.”
Deeg and Buchegger have made available several videos demonstrating the spoofing method:
The attack was successfully replicated on Windows 10 versions 1511 and 1607 even with the “enhanced anti-spoofing” feature enabled. In newer versions of the operating system, such as 1703 and 1709, the method no longer works if the anti-spoofing mechanism is turned on.
However, the researchers highlighted that updating to newer versions of Windows 10 and enabling the anti-spoofing feature is not enough to block attacks. Users must also reconfigure Hello Face Authentication.