One of the talking points about the new iPhone 5S was the addition of a new piece of hardware – a fingerprint scanner. Apple’s new fingerprint scanner, called “Touch ID” is one of the biggest security additions to the iPhone to date. With any huge security update comes a huge supply of questions. Is the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S really secure? Will Touch ID really protect your device? Could a thief still get into your phone with Touch ID enabled? Let’s take a look.
First, let’s take a look on what Touch ID is, and how exactly it works. The fingerprint scanner, located inside the iPhone’s home button, quickly scans your finger and matches pieces of your fingerprint together with an authenticated finger, and analyzing how close together the two fingerprints are. If they are deemed close enough together, the iPhone unlocks. From our tests, the fingerprint scanner works perfectly – nobody else has been able to get into my phone.
But that’s not to say that bypassing the fingerprint scanner isn’t impossible. In fact, a German-based hacker group were able to succesfully bypass the filter using a fingerprint that was left on a glass surface, a video of which can be seen below.
As you can see, the process of acquiring the fingerprint to bypass the sensor is fairly complex. So is it really an issue? Maybe, but probably not.
Before Apple introduced the fingerprint scanner and Touch ID, iPhone users typically fell into two main categories. They either used a simple, four digit pass code, or they used no pass code at all.
Touch ID is more secure than both of them. After all, a password is something you have, something that be stolen. But a fingerprint is different. A fingerprint is something you are – and it’s significantly harder to steal because of that.
Think for a moment – if you were a thief, would you take the time to go through the process of collecting someone’s fingerprint to unlock the phone? Probably not. It’s significantly easier for a thief to crack a four digit pass code – it only takes a little bit of observation, since most people end up typing it many times a day anyway.
The only other concern is if someone is able to use your hand itself to unlock it – perhaps a spouse or child while you’re sleeping. There’s isn’t really any way to prevent that. However, if this is the case for you, consider using a standard passcode and entering into couples counselling.
So is the iPhone’s new fingerprint scanner secure? Mostly. Is it right for you? Probably. However, only you can know for sure if you should enable Touch ID or not. Analyze your options, and choose what’s best for you.