Apple's iPhone Fingerprint Reader Successfully Hacked
Nice hack from the Chaos Computer Club:
The method follows the steps outlined in this how-to with materials that can be found in almost every household: First, the fingerprint of the enrolled user is photographed with 2400 dpi resolution. 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. This process has been used with minor refinements and variations against the vast majority of fingerprint sensors on the market.
I’m not surprised. In my essay on Apple’s technology, I wrote: “I’m sure that someone with a good enough copy of your fingerprint and some rudimentary materials engineering capability—or maybe just a good enough printer—can authenticate his way into your iPhone.”
I don’t agree with CCC’s conclusion, though:
“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.”
Apple is trying to balance security with convenience. This is a cell phone, not a ICBM launcher or even a bank account withdrawal device. Apple is offering an option to replace a four-digit PIN—something that a lot of iPhone users don’t even bother with—with a fingerprint. Despite its drawbacks, I think it’s a good trade-off for a lot of people.
EDITED TO ADD (10/13): The print for the CCC hack was lifted from the iPhone.