Samsung confirm flaw with thumbprint sensor on Galaxy S10

17 October 2019   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Samsung says it will issue a software patch to fix issue that leaves any thumbprint able to unlock the Galaxy S10.

The flaw was first widely reported at the weekend and now Samsung have confirmed its existence and announced a fix will soon be available.

Users reported that screen protectors were reducing the effectiveness of the thumbprint scanner and leaving phones vulnerable.

It's the latest embarrassment for Samsung following the much-publicised problems around the launch of the Galaxy Fold earlier this year.

samsung galaxy s10 e

Sensor issues

The fingerprint authentication system on the S10 was heralded as one of the smartphone's key features when the device launched in March, but the discovery of the flaw is a major public relations problem for Samsung.

Users can experience problems when they attach screen protectors to their S10. These affect the thumbprint sensor on the front of the device, allowing any thumbprint to access the screen and therefore the information stored on the phone.

Samsung have responded to reports which appeared in newspapers and acknowledged the flaw, announcing they will issue a software patch to remedy the issue.

Although the reason for the flaw has not yet been confirmed, it's suggested that the screen protectors left a small air gap between the protector and the screen that interfered with the thumbprint scanning feature.

Until the patch is issued, S10 users may want to use alternative ways of securing their phone such as PIN, password or pattern security.

Blow for biometrics?

Security is frequently under the microscope with digital methods of authentication rapidly becoming the norm for smartphones and even bankcards.

Smart homes and the devices within them are under scrutiny too, with a consultation launched in May to examine how devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) can be best secured against threats.

In the earlier days of fingerprint authentication, there were some significant problems with computer scientists claiming in 2015 that hackers were exploiting the technology due to poor implementation of the technology.

Problems such as fingerprint images being stored in an accessible file and the sensors being hijacked were highlighted, although these have largely been resolved as technology and security have progressed.

It's concerning, however, that a major security feature on one of Samsung's flagship phones has been exploited by a simple cheap screen protector.

While so far this flaw is confined to one model of one device, it might be a worry for customers who were told that using these authentication methods was a more secure method of protecting their device than PIN or password.

Read more about secure smartphones, the risks to modern devices and the different methods of authentication in our dedicated guide.

Embarrassment for Samsung

Although they have responded and confirmed they will issue a software patch, it's unfortunate that members of the public were the ones to recognise the flaw rather than Samsung's in-house team.

It adds to a difficult 2019 for the premium smartphone manufacturer, with their Galaxy Fold delayed in April due to the screens cracking when using the folding device.

Although the Galaxy Fold was finally released in September, the reviews haven't been awe-inspiring and reviewers report apprehension about handling the phone due to the previous problems.

Even so, many technology companies are hit by flaws, cyber attacks and hacks that temporarily impact their standing and are then forgotten.

If Samsung patch this flaw quickly and no one is reported to have lost anything due to it, the reveal could prove a blessing in disguise, ensuring future devices are even more secure.

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