Hack of iPhone 5s fingerprint authentication is irrelevant

Touch ID is still the best thing to happen to iPhone security. Here's why.

The iPhone 5s officially launched last Friday, but already a group of hackers has successfully cracked the fingerprint authentication. In spite of the hype surrounding this news, though, the hack of Touch ID idoesn't change the fact that the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s is the best thing that's happened to iPhone security so far.

Spurred on by a crowdfunding effort to offer a ransom, The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) stepped up to the challenge and created a latex mold of a lifted fingerprint that allowed them to slip past the Touch ID defenses.

A blog post from the CCC gang declares, "As we have said now for more than years [sic], fingerprints should not be used to secure anything. You leave them everywhere, and it is far too easy to make fake fingers out of lifted prints."

So, once again fingerprint scanning technology has failed. Right?

Well, no. The fact that a security control is not invulnerable is not an indictment against using it at all. Antimalware protection isn't absolute, but most businesses and individuals still use it. The lock on your house can be picked, but that doesn't stop you from locking your door at night.

The reality is that security isn't about invulnerability. Security is an exercise in risk management and raising the stakes for the bad guys. You don't need to have "unhackable" security--you just need security that makes it more difficult and impractical to get past.

Even the CCC doesn't suggest using no security. They simply believe that the fingerprint scanner is less secure than using a passcode. Some security is better than no security at all, though, and since most iPhone users refuse to use the passcode security, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner is infinitely superior.

Besides that, the hack isn't easy to pull off. Despite the CCC's boast that anyone can do it using "materials that can be found in almost every household," it's a stretch to say that a 2400 dpi camera, a 1200 dpi laser printer that can be configured for a "thick" toner setting, and pink latex milk are common household items.

But If you're really concerned about someone lifting your fingerprint and creating a fake one using the CCC mold technique, register your little finger instead of a thumb or pointer finger. A thief will probably be able to find a decent print of your thumb or pointer finger on the iPhone itself, but it's much more difficult to find a workable print of your pinky.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Chaos Computer Clubiphone 5ssecurityfingerprint scannerbiometric securitybusiness security

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?