Here we go again with yet another privacy issue—Or, is it? The most recent squawk is about the new fingerprint recognition feature on the iPhone 5s. I think it’s safe to accept the reality that as we enjoy the latest innovations in technology we’re giving up yet another slither of our personal privacy.

Fingerprint recognition is not new, but it is one of the new attributes of the iPhone 5S (on sale tomorrow) and, given concerns swirling around our digital activity these days, the thought of handing over our fingerprints to Apple via the latest iPhone is bound to have some people nervous.

Users have to register their print with the device to be able to unlock the phone by placing their finger or thumb on the button. This unique fingerprint is meant to provide additional protection against hackers or thieves.

Can we trust Apple or any other company using the same technology with our fingerprints? And, given my latest online malware experience, could those aggressive and relentless hackers discover new ways to trick the phone’s sensor.

The experts say that  it’s unlikely? Joe Schumacher, a security consultant to CNN said, “There should always be some concern with new technologies or functionality that has such a large base of users…The fingerprint reader is more of a sales tactic than a strong security enhancement.

Some folks have voiced their fears on Twitter and other social media that Apple armed with a future database of millions of thumbprints could turn over some customers’ prints to the NSA if ordered by the government. In spite of assurances from Apple that users’ fingerprint information will be encrypted and secured inside the phone’s new A7 processor and not on Apples’s servers backed up in the iCloud. Still, that Apple was reported to have been part of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program and hands over user information when mandated by the government is perplexing.

I’ve read plenty of comments about the new fingerprint feature and will share a couple. See below:

Dino Dai Zovi, co-author of “The iOS Hacker’s Handbook,” told CNN Money that if he were trying to hack an iPhone 5S, he would first try to lift prints from elsewhere on the device “and figure out how to replay those to the sensor to log in to the person’s phone.”

WSJ Spreecast: Mayank Upadhyay, Google’s Director of Security Engineering: It costs around $200,000 to build a device that could copy and employ a fingerprint, Upadhyay said. It’s more likely a thief will just reset the phone.

To be sure, fingerprint sensors don’t prevent a phone from being stolen, but they do help secure the data. If a phone is reset, the owner’s data is still private. Meanwhile, the additional time it takes to hack into the phone increases the data’s security — the extra hurdle buys the owner additional time to recognize the phone is missing and remotely wipe the phone’s contents before the thief can access the data.

Fingerprint scanners set “the bar of, say, a four-digit pin at the minimum, and that’s the way we should be looking at it,” Upadhyay says. “It’s an increase in usability, while maintaining at least as much security as a four-digit pin.”

Apple and Android offer features for users to wipe the phone’s contents remotely. In the new version of iOS 7 coming Wednesday, Apple has made it even more difficult for thieves to reset and reactivate stolen phones by tying those actions into iCloud.

If you need to upgrade, or you just like to keep up with the multi-sensory experience of new technology, I don’t think there’s going to be a radical change in your personal security—it has already been compromised. It might you feel cool or smarter for about fifteen minutes, but it’s fun to open the box and not so much fun to have to read the user manual.

I also doubt that type average thief who’s going to steal your phone can afford the expense of purchasing the technology with the ability to lift thumb or finger prints. All they’d need to do is reset it. If Apple has made if even more difficult to reset and reactivate stolen phones, then as Andrew Carnegie said, “All is well since all grows better.”

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4 Comments on Is the iPhone 5S fingerprint really secure?

  1. Mary Pratt says:

    An interesting perspective. Yes, we give up a little everyday. Just think NSA…

  2. Fair Dinkum says:

    Nice article. I’ll still purchase the new phone. Although it’s probably a toss up between the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.

  3. Jonathan F. says:

    Thanks for this article. Your last two paragraphs are especially true. Apple does believe that they’ve made it more difficult to reset the phone. Your regular phone thief can’t afford the technology to lift fingerprints and our personal security is already compromised by the government programs, marketing strategies like the smart TV and the Xbox being able to tell when you leave the room etc.

  4. Jennifer F says:

    Do I think the fingerprint security is going to stop some people from buying the new iPhone? Yes. Would it make people possibly go for a Samsung instead? Yes. I do not like that a cell phone takes “away” a little bit of security, while their “idea” is to give you more security. Wonder if it is something that Apple agreed to with the NSA and federal government. Something we don’t know and will never know. I also believe that people addicted to everything Apple will overlook it and get it anyway because it’s the newest thing from APPLE.

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