Why TouchID Fingerprint Scanner Isn't Such a Good Idea
Article by George Norman
On 17 Sep 2013
Here’s a quick look at the main reasons why fitting the new iPhone 5S with a fingerprint scanner is not such a good idea.

One of the cool new things the iPhone 5S has to offer is TouchID, a built-in fingerprint identity sensor that will let you lock and unlock the smartphone by simply placing your finger on the Home button. While this may sound like a cool idea, security company Intego pointed out that there are some drawbacks. Here are the main reasons why it’s not such a good idea to have a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S.


It May Not Work Properly
Apple itself, when presenting the technology behind TouchID, explained that the sensor is fallible. If your fingertip is wet, TouchID will not work. Or if your fingertip is heavily scarred, TouchID will not work.

So Apple admits that TouchID may not work properly. Add to that the fact that similar tech was finicky in the past, and we end up with the question: how many people will TouchID annoy when it malfunctions?

Fingerprint Scanners Can Be Fooled
Fingerprint scanners of old could be easily fooled – even as easily as using a photocopy of a valid fingerprint. MythBusters fans will surely recall the episode from 2006 when they successfully used three different methods to fool a fingerprint scanner.

TouchID is not like the fingerprint scanners of old. Its technology is more sophisticated: it scans just beneath external skin layers to get a more reliable “reading” of your fingertips; and the capacitance-scanning sensor looks for a certain electrical signature. This means you won’t be able to fool TouchID with a simple photocopy.

But means of fooling it are sure to appear in the future. People with enough time on their hands, who have access to the right technology, are sure to come up with a means of bypassing TouchID.

UPDATE, September 25: it took but a day for TouchID to be hacked. The 5S went on sale on September 20; on September 21, the CCC announced that it hacked the fingerprint scanner. Read more about it here.

TouchID will store your fingerprint info – and people who care about privacy will surely not like that. Several questions come to mind. Can someone hack the secure enclave that stores fingerprint info? Will apps have access to fingerprint info? What happens if fingerprint info leaks out? What happens if fingerprint info will be subpoenaed?

Tags: Apple, iPHone 5S, TouchID, security, privacy, Intego
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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