Insecurity about Apple’s fingerprint security

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

iphone scanner
Many individuals are worried that Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner is not secure enough to protect their information. The company, however, claims it is quite secure.

The biggest hype around the new Apple iPhone 5s is not about the fancy camera that can record in slow motion. It’s definitely not about the super sleek aluminum case that comes in three colors, either. The hype isn’t even about the phone’s A7 processor chip, which is the fastest on the mobile market! In fact, most of the real buzz was about the phone’s Touch ID – a fingerprint scanner on the home button used to unlock the phone.

Since no two human beings in the world have the same print, it’s supposed to be an ingenious way to “secure” the iPhone. Well, this may be so, however, given recent reports that the US government has been monitoring cell phones, people are worried. Is the Touch ID really just meant for personal security, or is it secretly being used by the NSA for national security?

When Apple announced that Touch ID would “store” fingerprints, some folks began to imagine a giant database filled with their biological information, just begging to be used by the government or maybe even stolen by hackers! Before the paranoia got too out of control, Apple assured the public that there’d be no such database (phew!). Instead, the fingerprint information will be kept on the phone’s A7 processor chip. Wait, that doesn’t really sound any better! Can’t it just be hacked?

Worse, imagine if a stranger got a hold of your actual phone. What kind of damage could they do if they managed to get past the fingerprint scanner? Again, Apple reassured iPhone lovers there’s no need to worry, because the information’s protected with a seriously hardcore mathematical system that’s difficult to crack! According to Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice-president of hardware engineering, “The sensor uses advanced capacitive touch to take, in essence, a high-resolution image of your fingerprint.” However, the image itself won’t be saved. Instead the picture is encrypted as a complex mathematical code in the phone. As a security bonus, the iPhone 5s will need a regular password either after a reboot or if it hasn’t been used in more than 48 hours.

Still, unless the latest iPhone is using quantum cryptography – the only unhackable security code system – there’s a chance hackers can snag fingerprint data. “There’s always a risk when you have stored credentials anywhere,” says Marc Rogers, principal researcher at the security firm Lookout. Only time will tell if hackers manage to find a way around

Images courtesy of Apple, Inc.