Hyper-realistic masks are extremely hard to spot – as our new research shows

David James Robertson, Alice Towler, Jet Sanders, Robin Kramer

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


It’s easy to spot someone wearing a mask, right? Well, new research suggests that it can be much harder than you think. Masks are a great way to help actors get into character and scare young children at Halloween. Unfortunately, they can also help criminals to commit identity fraud. Hyper-realistic silicone masks of the kind that get torn off in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible movies are being are being used to commit identity crimes.These masks are incredibly detailed, complete with hair, freckles and wrinkles. They cover the head and chest of the wearer, and include holes for the eyes and mouth which blend seamlessly with the wearer’s skin to create a lifelike appearance. There have been a number of prominent cases of people successfully using these masks to fool others. In 2010, CNN reported that an Asian man in his twenties passed through Hong Kong Passport Control undetected, despite wearing a mask that disguised him as an elderly white man which resembled the individual in his stolen passport. He was only detected when a fellow traveller noticed that he had removed the mask during his flight to Canada. The mask wearer was apprehended by the police on landing.
Original languageEnglish
No.Feb 4, 2020
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2020


  • Face Recognition
  • identity fraud
  • hyper-realistic mask
  • border
  • security

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