All You Need to Know About Apple’s iPhone 5S Touch ID; Forget the FUD Reports [U]

  • September 11, 2013

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All You Need to Know About Apple’s iPhone 5S Touch ID; Forget the FUD Reports

Apple has just launched the biometric revolutions in smartphone with it’s the Touch ID functionality. Yes, I can hear many of you saying, “but  my Motorola Atrix and/or my HP computer had that first.” My reply to that is – “So What.” Where are those products now. It’s not about who launches it first, it’s all about who does it better. That’s what really matters to consumers. And based on Apple’s track record (Siri and Maps are exceptions), we can rest assure that the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S will work far better than anything before and after it.

Another argument I hear quite a lot is that Apple should not be granted a patent for fingerprint scanning given that others have done it before.

I would like to quote Claims 2, 3 and 17 of Apple’s Application for a Fingerprint sensor:

3.    The electronic device defined in claim 2 wherein the electrode comprises a ring-shaped electrode.

4.    The electronic device defined in claim 3 further comprising a button, wherein the electrode is mounted to the button.

17.    The electronic device defined in claim 16 further comprising a button, wherein the capacitor structure is mounted on the button.

What you see there is Apple claiming to have invented way to create a fingerprint sensor in the Home button of their smartphone. No other company has done this before on a smartphone, hence these invention Claims are Novel, Nonobvious, and Useful.

Now that we gotten that out of the way, lets look at what Touch ID is about and how it will enhance your experience going forward.

To understand the thinking behind Apple’s groundbreaking Touch ID technology, lets look at look at what Apple’s Senior Vice President Design Jony Ive has to say:

It’s not rampant technology for technology sake, every single component, every process has been considered and measured that it is truly useful and actually enhances the user’s experience..

This care, this consideration extends to how we protect all the important information that you actually carry all the important information that you carry with you on your iPhone. It is what led us to create Touch ID.

After reading that, it’s no wonder Near Field Communication is not included in the iPhone. NFC currently lacks real world usefulness.

Here is a list of key things you should know about Touch ID:

What is Touch ID?
Touch ID is the new biometric fingerprint sensor built into the iPhone 5S Home button.

According to Apple, touch is central to how we use the iPhone. “Our fingerprint is the perfect password. You always have it with you. And no one can ever guess what it is… We also knew the right place to locate the sensor was where you naturally touch your iPhone — on the Home button.”

Furthermore, Touch ID is capable of 360-degree readability. Which means no matter what its orientation — portrait, landscape, or anything in between — your iPhone reads your fingerprint and knows who you are, Apple’s website says.

Touch ID is only available in the iPhone 5S.

How does Touch ID know it’s you?

There is an initial set up process which takes between 30 seconds to 1 minute to setup. According to TechCrunch, “Setup takes seconds, and it worked consistently and instantly thereafter. After configuring a 5s to be on the look out for Darrell’s fingerprint, Greg’s fingerprint was immediately turned away. Once I added mine to the system, it worked immediately. There was literally zero frustration.”

What does Touch ID control?

Currently Touch ID allows users to unlock their iPhone and authorize iTunes Store purchases with it. That’s it.

“Perhaps the most surprising thing about the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5s is the fact that it can only be used to do two things — unlock the phone and verify iTunes purchases, Ina Fried writes for AllThingsD. “Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller confirmed to AllThingsDthat developers won’t get access to use a fingerprint as a means of authentication. He declined to comment on Whether that might come in the future.”

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How secure is it, I’m paranoid NSA might get my fingerprints?

The simple answer is – No. NSA will find it very difficult to get your fingerprints from Apple. Simply because Apple does not have access it.

Dan Riccio – Senior Vice President Hardware Engineering, Apple: “All fingerprint information is encrypted and is stored securely inside the new A7 Chip. Here it is locked away from everything else. Accessible only to the Touch ID sensors. It’s never available to other software, it’s never available to stored on Apple’s servers or backed up to iCloud.”

You have more reasons to feel insecure about what information Google has about you than whether NSA can access your touch Touch ID information. So, please stop the FUD reports.

How many users can access Touch ID?
Apple said that because Touch ID will let you enroll multiple fingerprints. Even the people you trust. Hence, your spouse and children can access your iPhone by submitting their fingerprints.

Can I still use four-digit pin to unlock my iPhone?

Apple will reportedly allow users option of punching in a four-digit pin, as you would with any other model iPhone.

iPhone 5S

 

Credit: DigitalTrend

Does Touch ID make my iPhone more secure?

Yes.

However, there are those that believe this might not necessarily be the case. Biometric security expert Bruce Schneier explains  that Apple’s approach poses less risk. “If the system is centralized, there will be a large database of biometric information that’s vulnerable to hacking,” Schneier writes for Wired. Nevertheless, he believes that it will be harder to hack an iPhone than an Internet-connected database.

In his piece for Forbes, Andy Greenberg quotes Brent Kennedy, a vulnerability analyst with the government-run U.S. Computer Emergency and Readiness Team.

According to Kennedy,” If the fingerprint reader tests well, it may be more secure than a four-digit pin. But I’d caution right away, let’s see how it tests and what people come up with to break it. I wouldn’t rely on it solely, just as I wouldn’t with any new technology right off the bat.”

“Two factor authentication usually uses something you know and something you have–in this case, it’s something you are,” says Kennedy. “If [Apple] allows you to use both, that’s the best of both worlds.”

Do we really need Touch ID?

It really depends on how serious you are about securing your personal data. Additionally, Apple has plans for Touch ID, which will bring more benefits in the future.

Writing for Wired, Kyle Vanhemert posits:

But Touch ID has farther reaching implications than simply letting you walk out of Walgreens without stopping at the register. Right now, we’re at a delicate locus where privacy is a greater concern than ever and where our digital selves are fragmented across countless platforms, apps and services. The catch, though, is that the next generation of interactive, digital experiences could well depend on some sort of unified personal profile–a more portable digital identity, including your preferences, your apps, your content, your settings and the rest, that could be brought from device to device. The fingerprint could be the key to all that.

It doesn’t solve issues of privacy and security out of the gate–not by a long shot. Armchair critics responded to the news of the iPhone 5S sensor with a common refrain: one more thing for the NSA to collect. Still, though, the fingerprint is a psychologically powerful mode of authentication. As we’ve seen, our usernames and passwords are simple puzzles to be cracked; the rise of sophisticated phishing makes them as insecure as ever. Two-step authentication remains a slightly mystifying pain in the ass. A thumbprint is essential, and elemental. It’s convenient and, at least in theory, uncrackable. These are all things Apple’s evoking when they write, on the website for the new iPhone, that the Touch ID system is “inspired by a perfect design: your fingerprint.”

Vanhemert also quoted Jony Ive, who says, “Touch ID defines the next step of how you use your iPhone.” According Kyle Vanhemert, “Ive is not just talking about how you unlock the thing. What he’s hinting at is use cases we’re just now starting to dream up.”

To conclude, this is another move by Apple to push us forward into the future, where technologies and services such as iCloud, Siri and biometrics will be widely used by our children and their children. These technologies will definitely get better over time. Unfortunately for us, we are merely Beta testers. As a result, I would like to warn prospective owners of the iPhone 5S that it may not work as advertised for everyone. Hence, I highly recommend this article by Geppy Parziale, which highlights the challenges we can expect from Touch ID.

Update: 

The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that an Apple spokesman has shed more light on the Touch ID sensor in the iPhone 5S. According to the report, the iPhone 5S won’t store the actual image of user’s fingerprints on the device. Therefore, if someone cracked the iPhone encrypted chip, they still won’t have access to your fingerprint.

Additionally, the report cautioned that the system is not perfect. It will reportedly have trouble reading prints of moist fingers covered in sweat, lotion and other liquids.

It appears Mr. Geppy Parziale was right.

Posted by | Posted at September 11, 2013 20:40 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Storm is a technology enthusiast, who resides in the UK. He enjoys reading and writing about technology.

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