Hide your phone…again — S10 and Note 10 security flaw

The Samsung Galaxy S10. (Photo: Best Buy)

Just when you thought your shiny new Samsung device was secure. BAM!! There’s a new security flaw that could allow any fingerprint to access your device. There’s hope though, as Samsung is reportedly rolling out a patch to fix the issue.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 series are among the most beautiful and feature-rich smartphones on the planet. They offer many new and exciting capabilities as well as productivity tools. However, it seems there’s a gaping hole in Samsung’s fingerprint, biometric authentication system.

The Samsung Note 10 (Photo: Best Buy)

Last week reports started surfacing online of a way to bypass Samsung’s in-display fingerprint technology. According to The Sun, Lisa Neilson, a UK mother bought a cheap, gel-based case for her new S10. She registered her right thumb but then discovered that any of her fingers could unlock the device. Her husband was also able to unlock her device.

Samsung fingerprint security bug
The Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note10 have in-display fingerprint sensors.

It appears that some screen protectors and cases may cause the phone to unlock for even people who didn’t register a fingerprint. That’s scary stuff considering the fingerprint sensor grants access to many sensitive apps.

Other videos later popped up on YouTube showing how the sensor can be fooled with any finger.

Samsung’s in-display fingerprint sensor works by using soundwaves to create a 3D map of each fingerprint. However, the sensor needs direct contact with your finger to work. Some screen protectors may be dirty or add air gap between the screen and your finger that may cause the fingerprint sensor to malfunction or misread prints granting unauthorised access.

This news is similar to the Pixel 4’s face unlock issue that works with your eyes closed.

S10 users will know that the fingerprint sensor can be finicky with even registered fingerprints not working sometimes. Adding a third-party screen protector or full body case not designed for the device will only make matters worse.

The company warned users that some screen protectors can affect how the fingerprint sensor works. Samsung’s S10 support page says “unofficial, scratched or dirty screen protectors may cause the fingerprint sensor to malfunction. Try removing or cleaning the screen protector.”

If you need a screen protector, Samsung already put one on the phones (use that). And use official cases from reputable sellers.

Samsung fingerprint scanner
The in-display fingerprint sensor uses sound waves to make a 3D image of your fingerprint for authentication.

Samsung told the BBC last week that it is “aware of the case of S10’s malfunctioning fingerprint recognition and will soon issue a software patch”.

The patch started rolling out in Korea and is showing up in other countries as well.

Samsung sent out an update for its fingerprint security bug
Update notification sent out by Samsung

So, if you own an S10 or Note 10 lookout for the update and install it as soon as possible. And you should probably remove and rescan your fingerprints.

— Written by Renor C.