Time To Change Your Fingerprints: Apple's Fingerprint Scanner Already Hacked

from the no-problem,-just-change-your...-oh-wait dept

While Apple has been touting its new TouchID fingerprint scanner as more secure, many people with experience in biometrics are quick to note that the problem with biometric security is once it's cracked, you're kind of in trouble, since you can't just change your fingerprint/retina/voice etc. And, indeed, it took almost no time at all for the biometrics hacking team of the Chaos Computer Club to crack TouchID "using everyday means." You can see a video of them getting into a new iPhone with a different finger:
It appears that they've used the same basic method as has been used to hack fingerprint scanners in the past -- get a high quality image of the user's fingerprint and then:
The resulting image is then cleaned up, inverted and laser printed with 1200 dpi onto transparent sheet with a thick toner setting. Finally, pink latex milk or white woodglue is smeared into the pattern created by the toner onto the transparent sheet. After it cures, the thin latex sheet is lifted from the sheet, breathed on to make it a tiny bit moist and then placed onto the sensor to unlock the phone.
The only "difference" here is that they needed to use a higher resolution in the printing to match the higher resolution of Apple's scanner. CCC points out, as others have in the past, that this should remind people that fingerprint scanning is not very secure.
"We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics. It is plain stupid to use something that you can't change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token", said Frank Rieger, spokesperson of the CCC. "The public should no longer be fooled by the biometrics industry with false security claims. Biometrics is fundamentally a technology designed for oppression and control, not for securing everyday device access." Fingerprint biometrics in passports has been introduced in many countries despite the fact that by this global roll-out no security gain can be shown.

iPhone users should avoid protecting sensitive data with their precious biometric fingerprint not only because it can be easily faked, as demonstrated by the CCC team. Also, you can easily be forced to unlock your phone against your will when being arrested. Forcing you to give up your (hopefully long) passcode is much harder under most jurisdictions than just casually swiping your phone over your handcuffed hands.
It wasn't difficult to assume that this would happen. What's surprising is that Apple doesn't seem to have considered this fact.
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Filed Under: biometrics, chaos computer club, fingerprint, fingerprint scanner, fingerprints, hacked, ios, iphone 5
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    Aaron Toponce, 23 Sep 2013 @ 6:14am

    Identification, not authentication

    I wish people would understand that there are two different roles at work here, and fingerprints really should only be used for one of them: identification and authentication. Your fingerprint should only be used as an identifier of who you are. IE: present a list of users, and swiping your fingerprint picks the right user from the list. Then, and only then, should you provide a token that authenticates you to the system, such as a PIN code, password, or secure key card.

    The fact that companies the world over continue to use fingerprints as a method of authentication shows a lack of understanding how easy it is hack, and the difficulty required in "changing your fingerprint".

    Remember, if someone has your phone, they have your fingerprint, but they don't necessarily have your PIN or password. Too bad Apple didn't recognize this.

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