Apple hyped its new Touch ID fingerprint scanning security system as a "convenient and highly secure way to access your phone," but if a new report is accurate, the system may not be as secure as the company claims. Hackers from the Chaos Computer Club claim to have successfully bypassed Touch ID "using easy everyday means."
"In reality, Apple's sensor has just a higher resolution compared to the sensors so far," a hacker nicknamed Starbug said. "So we only needed to ramp up the resolution of our fake."
While the hackers claim the method is easy, it's complicated enough that most iPhone 5S users aren't as likely to have their security compromised by an everyday thief who would have to be willing to obtain a high-resolution photograph of a fingerprint and produce a physical fake. (It's also not nearly as easy to bypass Touch ID with this method as, say, fooling Android's Face Unlock feature with a simple photo of a person). But the method's relative simplicity, which involves photographing a fingerprint left behind on a surface and then creating a glue model of it, calls the sophistication of Touch ID's technology into question. Before Touch ID was officially announced, Wired's Bruce Schneier noted that fingerprint readers have long faced vulnerabilities, and that the simplest readers can be fooled with a good photocopy.
While getting fooled by a fake glue finger isn't great for Touch ID, it's not the most serious security concern facing the system. On Friday, Senator Al Franken said that the system "raises substantial privacy questions," and wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook requesting more details about Touch ID. Critics are concerned that a user's fingerprints may be accessible to hackers or other bad actors — something Apple says is virtually impossible, since Touch ID is said to only locally store a mathematical representation of a user's fingerprint.
The CCC says that the bypass has been demonstrated in a video, which can be seen below.
We've reached out to Apple for comment and will update if we hear back.