Samsung promises to fix bizarre Galaxy S10 bug breaking in-display fingerprint security

Samsung promises to fix bizarre Galaxy S10 bug breaking in-display fingerprint security
UPDATE: To highlight just how seriously the company is taking this matter, Samsung has issued a formal and complete statement on the nature of the glitch and its impending fix. Apparently, the in-display fingerprint sensor on not just the Galaxy S10, but the S10+, S10 5G, Note 10, and Note 10+ as well, has been erroneously identifying "three-dimensional patterns on certain silicone screen protecting cases as users' fingerprints."

For the time being, you're advised to "refrain from applying a silicone screen protecting case to your device", as well as delete "all previous fingerprints and newly register your fingerprints" if you've recently experienced any trouble. A software update will properly address the bug "beginning next week", after which you should be able to go back to using the protective accessories of your choice without fearing a massive security breach. The original story follows.

We always knew the in-display fingerprint recognition method employed by the Galaxy S10 and many other "modern" high-end Android smartphones was... not ideal from a speed and accuracy standpoint, but until recently, we had no idea how insecure it could be in a particularly bizarre and mundane scenario.

According to The Sun, which is not an altogether respectable British publication, a 34 year-old woman from a little town in West Yorkshire, England was shocked to discover one of those dirt-cheap screen protectors you can buy on eBay somehow totally broke the fingerprint authentication security on her state-of-the-art Galaxy S10

Because we know exactly what you're thinking, let us highlight we have our own doubts regarding the veracity of this story, but Samsung appears to have confirmed there is indeed something seriously wrong with the fingerprint scanning system of the S10.

Major glitch discovered, software patch incoming

After applying a "gel cover" on top of her Galaxy S10 to protect the screen from scratches, a woman named Lisa Neilson accidentally unlocked the phone by using her left thumb. That wasn't supposed to happen since the handset's owner allegedly registered only her right thumb print as a theoretically secure method to access all the personal information on the GS10.

Lisa quickly found out that the device could be unlocked using any of her digits, and worse yet, her husband had no problem doing the same even though none of his prints were registered prior to acquiring the unnamed £2.70 ($3.45) screen protector. While we presume the issue could be easily fixed by removing the third-party protective accessory, its presence and manifestation remain extremely concerning.

For its part, Samsung seems to have reacted to this vexing report with swiftness and readiness to act, promising to deliver a software update in the near future to make fingerprint security great again. At the same time, the company is strongly recommending the use of "authorized accessories, specifically designed for Samsung products", which is generally a good point but doesn't feel particularly relevant right now. Granted, in-display fingerprint sensors are not known for playing well with "unauthorized" screen protectors, but that doesn't explain or justify the very serious security glitch taking place here. 

After all, there's a big difference between an unresponsive or completely nonfunctional fingerprint recognition system and one that can't distinguish the rightful owner of a phone from a possible intruder just because something is covering up the screen.

What in the world might have happened?

Because Samsung isn't ready to offer a thorough explanation yet, we're left scratching our heads as to the exact nature of this weird bug. For those who may not remember, the Galaxy S10 and S10+ were universally criticized at launch, including in our own in-depth review, for various fingerprint scanning performance issues. But the performance and reliability of the "invisible" biometric sensor were the only things panned by reviewers and early adopters, not to mention Samsung improved all that with a couple of software updates.

Of course, it didn't take long for someone to design a way to hack the fingerprint reader, but this time around, you need no skills whatsoever and little to no effort to bypass the S10 biometric security. Clearly, something about this specific screen protector or a certain type of cover causes the ultra-advanced ultrasonic system to misbehave, most likely leaving a gap between the actual display and the protective accessory that somehow disables the functionality of the screen-embedded scanner.

As its name suggests, this uses ultrasound technology to detect the ridges that make every single human fingerprint unique. We'll obviously have to wait for Samsung to complete its "internal investigation" before providing a detailed explanation of what went wrong. In the meantime, you may want to heed the company's advice and take no risks whatsoever on third-party accessories.

Now would also be a good time to remind you Samsung is expected to vastly improve the in-display fingerprint scanner on its next flagship device. This latest controversy might also explain why Google decided to focus all its biometric development resources on 3D face unlock technology and why Apple continues to hesitate to bring back Touch ID in a modernized form.

Related phones

Galaxy S10
  • Display 6.1" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 10 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3400 mAh



1. lyndon420

Posts: 6861; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Just another reason why I prefer using a passcode when unlocking my phone...

3. pimpin83z

Posts: 595; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

My passcode is: touch my phone & I'm breaking your fingers aka no password. My phone is unlocked cause it's always on me, I have nothing to hide & all my info sensitive apps (Keep, mobile banking, etc.) are all protected by a password.

6. lyndon420

Posts: 6861; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I don't usually carry in my pocket anymore, but it's always near by or in my coat. The only phone I lost was my Dell Streak 5, and that's because it was still in the grocery basket when I was paying for my groceries...never saw it again.

9. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

My phone just gives me access to everything just by looking at it.

19. aegislash

Posts: 1526; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

No, you don’t have access to everything ‘just by looking at it’ with FaceID. There’s still another action required to get to the home screen, even if it is just a tiny swipe.

15. AlienKiss

Posts: 241; Member since: May 21, 2019

Someone's touching my phone.. Me: Yo, hold my keys! (Cardi B - Press song in the background)

2. cmdacos

Posts: 4302; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

If you ignore warnings on set up, you get what you deserve.

5. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

What warnings? This isn't the consumer's fault, it's the technology that Samsung has implemented which can be bypassed simply by installing a 3rd party screen protector. Let's just hope they indeed can fix this flaw via a software update.

8. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Did cmdacos just say “you’re using it wrong”. What a hypocrite.

13. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I believe he did lol

21. cmdacos

Posts: 4302; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Not what i said at all cupcake.

17. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

So literally Samsung phone should use the prescribe screen protector from them but it wasn’t good. Stop making excuses. Just let Samsung fix this asap.

4. adecvat

Posts: 652; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Another rushed Samsung feature to market before it’s ready and properly tested.

7. lyndon420

Posts: 6861; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Is it just Samsung, or will this particular screen protector hinder other OEM's in screen fps's?

16. mackan84

Posts: 609; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Valid question. Someone here with a YT channel and a couple of in screen fps phones on hand? Investigations on things like this is fun to watch :)

10. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Nobody likes the Samsung version of the in display FPS, it’s too slow and unreliable, and now it seems to be a security risk as well. Bad Samsung!

14. stferrari

Posts: 63; Member since: Dec 15, 2014

Hmmmmm. Been using it now for oh...........9+ months and even though it's not perfect (no phone tech is.....and yes that includes i-phones) I like it alot. Each to his own. I think Apple products are OK but hate IOS for its lack of flexibility/customization, hate Apples closed environments and their requirement for overpriced custom-to-Apple accessories. So I choose Android as does the vast majority of the Android users (don't hate me other android phone users that prefer other manufacturers as I respect your choice also). But then again, only my lowly opinion.

18. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

Only Apple people say that. I haven't had any issues with it, but in any case, Samsung apparently made it, and face recognition, even faster and safer with their next update.

11. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Just ordered a few cheap screen protectors from eBay - I got a bet to win.

12. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011 Android 10 is dope.

20. CableTelcontar

Posts: 97; Member since: Nov 19, 2014

Anyone with a Note 10 having same issues? I just changed the screen protector on my Note10+. Been trying different fingers and none so far has unlocked my phone except mine.

22. cmdacos

Posts: 4302; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

If you have had a fingerprint set, it wont work unless your fingers are greasy enough to leave your print film on immediately before putting the screen protector on. The other way that is easier to bypass is if you use an unsupported screen protector, apply it and then register a fingerprint. Then you can unlock it with any finger, your elbow, ear lobe, whatever.

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