Apple allowed your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone in situations where Face ID doesn’t work, namely when you’re wearing a mask. This feature is available in the latest versions of iOS 14 and watchOS 7 and was generally seen as a welcome innovation; To be honest, I was very happy when this one came out with iOS 14.5 with unlocking using the Apple Watch, and immediately started using it. After all, when I am masked with my iPhone (and this happens quite often now), I want to be able to quickly unlock it. But after about a week of using the new feature, something happened that made me realize that using Apple Watch unlock is actually a big security risk for my data.
Unlocking from Apple Watch is convenient, but is it really safe?
One friend, being nearby, unlocked my iPhone, and I noticed it already after the fact. And now I have not used this feature since it dawned on me that unlocking with Apple Watch is a workaround that undermines the security of Face ID.
Here’s a quick rundown of how it all happened.
Can another person unlock an iPhone?
I was at the store with a friend picking out food for a picnic, so I was wearing a mask. I flipped through Twitter, saw a cool meme, decided to show it to a friend and gave him my iPhone. Himself at this time was distracted, and after a few seconds he handed me the already locked phone back. However, even before the iPhone was in the line of sight of my eyes, the message “iPhone is unlocked with Apple Watch” appeared on my watch. At the same time, the phone itself remained in the hands of another person.
Before you state the obvious, I’ll do it for you. Of course, this incident was rather an exception to the rule, and I will not give my iPhone in the hands of someone else; however, it still got me thinking about how serious this incident might have been. When I leave the house, I constantly unlock my Apple Watch with a passcode to view messages, check my activity rings, or for a variety of other reasons. And then the watch will unlock my iPhone if I wear a mask.
Но я уже несколько раз замечал, что разблокировка с Apple Watch работает, даже если на лице нет маски, а телефон повернут куда-то в сторону. Может, баг, но мне бы не хотелось когда-нибудь стать его жертвой.
The whole point of biometric authentication is to confirm that it is you who will unlock your iPhone.
Unlocking with your Apple Watch will never reliably authenticate a user.
Yes, you need a password for your Apple Watch, but we all know that numeric passcodes are not as secure as Face ID, and the average person has very weak passwords and passcodes (like 1234). When you unlock with Apple Watch, Face ID can’t scan your face, it just notices that you have something on your face. It is very likely that someone could steal your iPhone and Apple Watch, find out (or guess) your Apple Watch password, and gain access to your phone. How likely is it? Perhaps practically not, but why put yourself at risk.
Of course, I do not blame Apple for this workaround, people demanded it, because entering the password from the iPhone in the mask every time is tough. But I want my iPhone to be as secure as possible, and unlocking with an Apple Watch doesn’t match that.
Fortunately, there is a fairly simple solution to this problem.
Why Apple needs Touch ID back
The best way to fix all problems is to get Touch ID back . Until last year, I would have been shocked to see Touch ID ever make a return to flagship iPhones. When Apple first introduced Face ID, it was clear that the company had made its own choice and Face ID was the way of the future. In Apple’s view, Face ID was better, and the return of Touch ID could be seen as an admission that it wasn’t.
IPhone 13 concept with Touch ID in the screen
But now Apple has nothing to worry about. There is a need to return Touch ID to the next iPhone. And not for nothing, after all, in the iPad Air 4 they made the fingerprint scanner in the lock button (by the way, very convenient), and not Face ID? It never occurred to anyone that this indicated some disadvantages of unlocking with the help of a face.
I think Apple will either put Touch ID on the side button of the iPhone 13 – similarly to the screen lock button on the iPad Air 4 – or build a fingerprint scanner right under the screen. Either way, having Touch ID will end the need to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch and bring back the security we deserve on our iPhones.