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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid