Although not as damning as the fate that awaits Huawei, Samsung is facing its own ordeal that could damage its reputation in the financial and security industries. Its ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint was already long overdue but is now proving to be less secure and accurate as it was promised to be. Samsung has already begun rolling out an update that addresses the latest complaint but, while swift, might be a bit too late to assure some banks for a while.
By employing ultrasonic technology rather than the conventional optical sensor, Samsung and Qualcomm promised a fingerprint scanner that was more accurate and more reliable than the common solutions. In particular, it wasn’t hampered by things like liquids or smudges and, to some extent, cracks and scratches on the glass above. The first iteration that debuted on the Galaxy S10 was proven not to be as foolproof as advertised but this second flaw is perhaps more worrying than the first.
In a nutshell, users have discovered that registering a fingerprint with a screen protector applied can confuse the sensor to the point that it will randomly accept fingerprints not enrolled in the system. In other words, it practically makes fingerprint security moot and some banks have already taken action to single out the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 as insecure. Samsung naturally laid the initial blame on third-party screen protectors but conceded that the phones needed a patch as well.
That fix is rolling out now to owners of the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 variants (except for the Galaxy S10e that has a traditional fingerprint scanner on its power button). Only those owners who have already registered fingerprints will be notified to apply the update. After they have done so, they are encouraged to re-register their fingerprints but without any screen protector, which means they will also have to remove and then reapply the film afterward.
It remains to be seen if Samsung’s quick actions will be enough to fix the problem not to mention fix some banks’ broken trust. It isn’t a good month for biometric security on Android as Google’s Pixel 4 was also criticized for not including eye/attention detection for its face recognition. But while Samsung has quickly rolled out a fix in a matter of days, Google’s official word is that its fix will arrive in the coming months.