Is The iPhone Fingerprint Scanner Hackable?

sugar temptation

Yes, but not so fast. What’s that got to do with handfuls of candy (see photo) you ask?

Apple just announced that their newest iPhone has a security feature  called       ‘Touch ID’. This new biometric tool allows users to store their fingerprint data inside the phone as an added security measure.

Many are questioning whether this technology improves the iPhone or if it can be easily hacked or bypassed. The company that developed the iPhone technology (Authentec) was gobbled up by Apple in one of their most expensive acquisitions ever.

Security technologist Bruce Schneier recently pointed out that fingerprint readers have a history of vulnerability and some systems can even be fooled by a simple photocopy of a fingerprint. Schneier says that a German researcher once fooled a system using a fake print made of the same gelatin-like ingredient in Gummy bears! Not so sweet.

Going forward, we’ll see more companies gravitating toward fingerprint technology, but most observers agree that it must be coupled with at least one other security measure to insure two-factor authentication.

In an recent Computer Weekly article, security expert and  Encap CEO Bostrom Jorgensen states:

“A single factor, whether it’s a Pin (something you know), a smartphone (something you have), or a fingerprint (who you are), is not enough on its own. The iPhone’s fingerprint sensor is a significant step, but not a silver bullet. Hacking a fingerprint may sound as if it’s only possible through rather gruesome means, but it is very possible to steal fingerprints through more social methods – lifting a print from a discarded coffee cup is no more science fiction than the fingerprint scanner itself,” he said.

This is an idea whose time has come and while it’s not the first smartphone with biometric technology on-board, it will almost certainly point the way for the phones of the future that seek to incorporate the combination of authentication coupled with convenience.

Scanner equipped phones will also continue to utilize the more familiar security measures like pins, pass codes, secret swipes and facial recognition. Fingerprints alone are not a secret, since we leave them everywhere we go, on everything we touch.

So it seems that fingerprint scanners are becoming part of a well-balanced mobile phone privacy plan in much the same way that Cheerios are a part of a well- balanced breakfast.

Dale Penn is a professional speaker, trainer and  privacy advocate. He is the author of the award-winning book, Identity Theft Secrets: Exposing The Tricks Of The Trade. Follow Dale on Twitter @DalePenn

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