What if your iPhone fingerprint gets hacked?

The new technology aims to address the shortcomings of passwords, but it adds a potentially even more dangerous element.

By Jonathan Berr Sep 24, 2013 10:21AM

An employee tests the fingerprint scanner on the new Apple iPhone 5SPeople who have bought Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone 5S face a problem they might not have considered regarding its new fingerprint security scanner.

The technology is actually raising new concerns about privacy. As Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., noted in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook that was provided to The Washington Post, people who have had other personal accounts hacked can easily change their password. But that option won't work if thieves can get access to someone's fingerprint.

"Let me put it this way: if hackers get a hold of your thumbprint, they could use it to identify and impersonate you for the rest of your life," the newspaper quotes from Franken's letter.

He wants to know what how Apple plans to use the fingerprint data it acquires from what it calls the Touch ID and wants assurances that it will never allow commercial third parties to gain access to the data.

Apple says it will store data on the 5S in an encrypted format and will protect its Touch ID data, according to the newspaper. Other companies, though, have made similar promises and broken them.

Franken's concerns are valid, and theTouch ID is attracting some unwanted attention. As CNET noted, one security researcher is offering $16,000 in cash to the first person who hacks the fingerprint scanner. Media reports say a group of German hackers called the Chaos Computer Club may be able to claim the prize.  A spokesman for the group said bypassing Apple's security system "wasn't particularly challenging."

Plus, corporate info-tech managers are going to be putting the Touch ID through tests of their own before allowing it to be used on their networks. Chris Hertz, chief executive of IT company New Signature, told The Post it will take businesses as long as six months to add fingerprint data to their protocols.  

In the end, however, the new iPhone may increase the use of mobile payments if it can give users a greater sense of security. After all, passwords have proven all too easy for thieves to crack.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr and at Berr's World.

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Sep 24, 2013 10:52AM
Also consider how easy it will be for the NSA to hack your phone to collect all your data. The government has been spying on us all for years, it just took the actions of one man to bring it all to light. Hero or traitor Edward Snowden took the blinders off of us and allowed us to have an open discussion about privacy and the limits of power
Sep 24, 2013 1:20PM
You could always not use your fingerprint if you are that worried. It works with any body part. But some could be a bit cumbersome.
Sep 24, 2013 11:03AM
" ENEMY OF THE STATE " Big brother is watching
Sep 24, 2013 11:10AM
Ya, security does not seem to a higher issue than the latest game available. Seems to be it was bad enough for the state to have your fingerprints and keep them safe. Now, people are going to load them onto a phone? Hey, that is stored some where and some how people. Get a clue. Not much is really secure anymore these days. How would you like someone to get your print and place it some place at the scene of a crime. Think it is impossible? I really doubt it now days.  They all laugh about Blackberry and the security, their mistake was they needed to move totally into the business enterprise arena a long time ago.
Sep 24, 2013 12:05PM
According to a group in Germany... those new i-phones can be tricked into bypassing the fingerprint using common household items. Is it really necessary to keep rolling out crap that gets compromised it's first day?
Sep 24, 2013 1:39PM

you think "your" phone is yours?

you think "your" bank account is yours?

you think "your" personal info is really private?

etc. etc. etc.


hate to say it... but not anymore guys....

Sep 24, 2013 12:06PM
You know... once they have your fingerprint... you have to chew your finger off. 
Sep 25, 2013 10:53AM
As long as the phone asks me to place my finger and not pull my finger, we're good.
Sep 24, 2013 12:36PM
That's a big what if. The answer. Nothing. People just love to worry.
Sep 24, 2013 11:33AM
What if Hannibal Lecter hacks your phone?...
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