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Why Fingerprint Scanning Feature on the iPhone 5S Represents a Serious Security Risk?

Apple fans are clearly pleased with the iPhone 5S and its new features. One of them is the fingerprint scanning capability and while the biometric security systems looks like a neat capability at first glance, it may not be a completely a good idea. Not only fingerprint scanning isn’t as secure as we might think, it also raises a number of privacy issues. Unlike passwords and PINs, once our biometric information is compromised, there’s no way to change it. If hackers get hold of our retina imprint or thumbprint, they might use it to impersonate us for the rest of our life. Worse, when the data is published freely on the Internet, our biometric characteristics will be rendered useless forever.

Tech enthusiasts from a Germany-based group, the CCC (Chaos Computer Club) have shown us that it’s relatively easily to hack the system using old tricks. We are talking about a popular $600 smartphone with a supposedly cutting-edge security system that can be defeated by printed latex and fingerprint patterns lifted from glass or metal surface. In fact, CCC has published the same method nearly a decade ago in its website and since then, the group had some success defeating various security systems based on fingerprint scanning.

iphone fingerprint

Another serious privacy issue is how the biometric data is handled. Whether the data is encrypted properly, whether the data is sent to a cloud server, who owns the data and whether it could be used for a legal proceeding?

With traditional password- and PIN-based security systems, if someone illegally uses our bank card, it will be easy to cancel and ask the bank make us a new one. But when people manage to steal our biometric information, we can’t alter our DNA. It’s also possible to leave biometric trails whenever we go on everything we touch. Consequently, it’s unbelievably reckless to use something that we can’t change as a security token.

On paper, it may sound wonderful to prevent unauthorized people from using our iPhone 5S with the TouchID scanner. But, things can be really risky when we start using TouchID for our banking and credit card information. A harmless action like leaving our thumbprint in a café may allow criminals to go on shopping sprees with our card information or empty our bank account. Perhaps we should stick to PINs and passwords.

Data security should be viewed as a priority over convenience. If Apple decides to add fingerprint scanning capability simply as a way to make login attempt more convenient, then this is a dangerous gimmick indeed!

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