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Galaxy Note 20 fingerprint scanner vulnerability repeats history


Samsung was one of the first smartphone makers that eyed in-screen fingerprint sensors but it was one of the last to actually adopt it. Even then, the technology it used ended up being more than disappointing. First introduced in its 2019 lineup, the fingerprint scanners that used Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor technology was proven to be susceptible to being fooled by screen protectors. It turns out, Samsung’s 2020 Galaxy Note 20 phones were just as vulnerable to that trick.

It’s almost surprising that there wasn’t much noise over this bug in the Galaxy Note 20 compared to the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 before it. Last year, users complained about how the phones could be unlocked by almost any fingerprint when using a screen protector. Samsung immediately pushed out a software update to fix that while also blaming third-party screen protectors as well.

Apparently, the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra also have the same problem, though that may have gone under the radar this time. Few would have probably heard about it if Samsung itself didn’t dutifully disclose the vulnerability. Fortunately, that disclosure came with the January 2021 security patch that is rolling out now.

The bug was privately reported back in October and, fortunately for Samsung, users didn’t bother checking the Galaxy Note 20 fingerprint scanner’s accuracy this time around. The report simply said that screen protectors resulted in high false-positive recognition readings or FRR, meaning it would have potentially accepted someone else’s fingerprints.

The good news is that Samsung does have a fix already but the not-so-good news is that it might not be rolling out yet to all Galaxy Note 20 phones around the globe. More worrying, however, is that Samsung has run into the same problem for the second time, potentially raising concerns about the technology it uses for a critical security feature.

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