News / Science & Technology

German Group Claims to Have Hacked iPhone Fingerprint Scanner

A promoter demonstrates the fingerprint scanner feature of the newly launched Apple iPhone 5S in Singapore, Sept. 20, 2013.
A promoter demonstrates the fingerprint scanner feature of the newly launched Apple iPhone 5S in Singapore, Sept. 20, 2013.
Reuters
A group of German hackers claimed to have cracked the iPhone fingerprint scanner on Sunday, just two days after Apple launched the technology that it promises will better protect devices from criminals and snoopers seeking access.
 
If the claim is verified, it will be embarrassing for Apple, which is betting on the scanner to set its smartphone apart from new models by Samsung and others running Google’s Android operating system.
 
Two prominent iPhone security experts told Reuters that they believed the German group, known as the Chaos Computing Club, or CCC, had succeeded in defeating Apple's Touch ID, though they had not personally replicated the work.
 
One of them, Charlie Miller, co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook, described the work as “a complete break” of Touch ID security. “It certainly opens up a new possibility for attackers.”
 
Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
 
CCC, one the world's largest and most respected hacking groups, posted a video on its website that appeared to show somebody accessing an iPhone 5S with a fabricated print. The site described how members of its biometrics team had cracked the new fingerprint reader, one of the few major high-tech features added to the latest version of the iPhone.
 
The group said they targeted Touch ID to knock down reports about its “marvels,” which suggested it would be difficult to crack.
 
“Fingerprints should not be used to secure anything. You leave them everywhere, and it is far too easy to make fake fingers out of lifted prints,” a hacker named Starbug was quoted as saying on the CCC's site.
 
The group said it defeated Touch ID by photographing the fingerprint of an iPhone's user, then printing it on to a transparent sheet, which it used to create a mold for a “fake finger”.
 
CCC said similar processes have been used to crack “the vast majority” of fingerprint sensors on the market.
 
“I think it's legit,” said Dino Dai Zovi, another co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook. “The CCC doesn't fool around or over-hype, especially when they are trying to make a political point.”
 
Touch ID, which was only introduced on the top-of-the-line iPhone 5S, lets users unlock their devices or make purchases on iTunes by simply pressing their finger on the home button. It uses a sapphire crystal sensor embedded in the button.
 
Data used for verification is encrypted and stored in a secure enclave of the phone's A7 processor chip.
 
Two security experts who sponsored an impromptu competition offering cash and other prizes to the first hackers who cracked the iPhone said they had reviewed the information posted on the CCC website, but wanted more documentation.
 
“We are simply awaiting a full video documentation and walk through of the process that they have claimed,” said mobile security researcher Nick DePetrillo, who started the contest with another security expert, Robert Graham. “When they deliver that video we will review it.”
 
The two of them each put up $100 toward a prize for the contest winner, then set up a website inviting others to contribute. While the booty now includes more than $13,000 in cash, it was not clear that the CCC would receive the full payout, even if DePetrillo and Graham declared them winners.
 
A micro venture capital firm known as I/O Capital, which had offered to pay $10,000 in prize money, issued a press release late on Sunday saying that it would make its own determination about who won the contest.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid