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iPhone TouchID fingerprint biometrics broken by German hacker club

Ellen Messmer | Sept. 24, 2013
Chaos Computer Club shows online video demonstrating use of a gummy finger hack of an Apple iPhone.

The German hacking group Chaos Computer Club says its biometrics hacking team has discovered how to bypass the biometric security of Apple's TouchID fingerprint authentication through a simple method based on a rubbery duplicate of a fingerprint the group devised.

The Chaos Computer Club demonstrated its method of tricking the Apple Touch ID sensor in a video it posted online showing how the Apple iPhone was easily fooled by a gummy copy of an individual's fingerprint previously used to access the smartphone. The Chaos Computer Club said it made this copy of a registered fingerprint through a simple process involving creating a gummy image of the fingerprint out of latex and glue.

The gummy fingerprint trick is one that is well-known in biometrics and has been used before to raise questions about how uncrackable some fingerprint-based biometrics might be.

"We hope 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 for the Chaos Computer Club in a statement over the weekend. "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."

The club adds that it believes that fingerprint biometrics in passports is a poor practice in terms of security gains.

The Chaos Computer Club went on to say that iPhone users should avoid protecting sensitive data with fingerprint biometrics "because it can be easily faked, as demonstrated by the CCC team. Also, you can easily be forced to unlock your phone against your will when being arrested. Forcing you to give up your (hopefully long) passcode is much harder under most jurisdictions that just casually swiping your phone over your handcuffed hands."


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