As you all know, Google released the source code of their new OS, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, on November 19, featured on the new Nexus Prime. The new OS from Google is packed full with features and advances in security and in future updates, with all the kinks ironed out, these features could pave the way for better mobile security.
Important Features in Android Ice Cream Sandwich
1. On-Device Encryption
This is a good thing for mobile security, but it also depends on many variables: the strength of the the security algorithm, the keywords used to decrypt the information and most of all, the master password for these keywords. These variables create a chain of security, but like any chain, it’s as good as its weakest link. And for transmitting data to another phone, this encryption cannot be used, due to the difference in everyone’s encryption.
2. Email Copy and Paste
A feature that has the potential to ease everyone’s browsing and writing of emails, but yet again, it has a dent in its security, and that is third party apps which are used to open attachments, and these may not have the same security of the operating system.
3. Capture Screen Shots
Screen capture is a feature that should have been implemented in mobile phones for some time now. It gives the possibility of sharing print-screens with others. If you want to share your screen, there are apps for that, as well. So, reviewers now have a tool they have been dreaming about for some time.
4. Android Beam
This nifty little thing lets owners of Android phones to send information wireless to another Android device, though, the security risk of doing so is somewhat great, as the data is being transmitted, it is not encrypted, though it would be quite easy for a third party to tap into the transmission. This is a side effect of the On-Device Encryption, that encrypts data only on a phone level.
Facial Recognition Unlock
Last but not least, the facial recognition software used to unlock the phone is the feature we will be talking about. This is one of the coolest features I’ve ever seen on a mobile phone so far and it promises a wide range of applications. The question is, is it secure enough? From the looks of it, the facial recognition software needs a lot of work before we can name it fully functional, as seen on numerous occasions on the web, it unlocks the phone with only a picture of the owner, and not necessarily with him in person.
The bugs are these, but what does this technology mean for us? I can envision a future where all the issues surrounding face recognition are addressed and the technology is integrated all around us, making our lives easier. Face recognition promises a security like never before; with integrated retina scanners this tech could make today’s passwords and other security measures obsolete.
Google is a pioneer in this technology, and the Facial Unlock is a great example of this. Reviewers all over the Internet have labeled it “unsafe”, but I think they have not realized the innovation behind this software. The possibility of having a facial recognition software for my phone is great, just thinking of the security (if the technology is perfected) level it will give: no more unsafe passwords or PIN numbers, easy to guess pattern unlocks, these will be things of the past.
Facial Unlock in Ice Cream Sandwich, Does it Secure your Phone?
From a security point of view, Google’s Facial Unlock is not full proof, not by a long shot: it depends on the lighting effects and changes in one’s appearance and it can’t tell the difference from a picture and the real thing, as shown in a few YouTube videos, where the software is hacked using a photo on a Samsung Galaxy Note, or even a printed image of the owner.
The Facial Unlock feature may be viewed as a reply to Apple’s Speech Parser, but at this point, they are still head to head, according to Kang Yoon Hum, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co in Seoul. Facial Recognition is available for Apple as well, but only in the form of an app, called RecognizeMe that works only on jailbroken iPhones and consists of an app that scans your face and determines the geometrical profile of its user and compares it to a stored image.
Having the Facial Unlock feature implemented with the operating system may just give Android the upper edge in the battle for mobile market dominance with Apple. The question to be asked here is whether or not this technology has a chance to become more then a novelty feature on a smartphone, a real security turning stone in mobile technology, giving us the peace of mind that no one except us can access our data.