Everyone in a relationship always wants to snoop into the partner’s Facebook and text messages; probably Twitter too. Some partners are free with each other to the extent of sharing PINs and passwords for phones, emails, Facebook, etc. I used to have that kind of freedom but not anymore and that’s why I might need an iPhone 5S for the December holidays’ present. But before I give the details, let’s first go into the technical nitty gritty of iPhone 5S’ TouchID.
The Touch ID
As you already might be aware, Touch ID is the Apple’s security feature embedded on iPhone 5S’s home button for unlocking the phone. It is a fingerprint scanner that scans your thumb finger before granting you access to the phone and it is aimed at replacing the need to type in the PIN or password or draw a pattern as phone unlock security checks. Fears are that the fingerprint feature might be stored on iCloud, associate you with your phone, apps, and emails and enable the Government (read NSA) easily compile a profile about you and possibly track your every move. Apple allayed these fears when Apple Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller explained that the fingerprint signature will be saved in the iPhone’s memory and not on iCloud or on any other servers outside the phone. Yeah, saving the ID in the phone’s memory gives comfort as far as the Government is concerned but it gives the possibility that thieves could be able to hack into the phone and by-pass the security check to gain access to the secure data. Lookout, a firm concerned with phone security and runs the “Find my phone” app Lookout, warns that that people who really want to protect their data should also include the standard PINs and password just in case a thief might be nearby. It is important to have a second level authentication as iOS7 that powers iPhone 5S will use stored PIN or password to disallow access to thieves.
Touch ID architecture
Fingerprint scanners are generally of two categories, optical readers that take a picture of your fingerprint with a digital camera and stores the image for future comparison. Optical readers are however easy to cheat as a photo of your finger can be used to unlock the device. Apple chose the second technology which is a capacitance reader. The reader is a 170 microns thin and has 500ppi resolution which can scan in 360 degrees. The thin reader is sandwiched underneath the surface of the home button that in itself is made of super-hard sapphire glass.The sapphire glass is intended to reduce the potential of damaging the reader and it also features a steel detection ring that determines when a finger is on the home button to then activate the Touch ID sensor.
How Touch ID Works
The home button detects when a finger is placed on it, activates the scanner, the scanner looks through the glass to observe the ridges past the outer layer of the skin (scans the epidermis instead of the dermis), registers the electrical impulses from the ridges and using an algorithm and a hash-tag (random code) saves the pattern representing the fingerprint in the phone’s memory as an encrypted file. It is like translating the unique fingerprint pattern into a series of 0s and 1s then adding to the 0s and 1s a random number that must be cracked if anyone would want to reconstruct the 0s and 1s into an image.
How Touch ID works in iPhone 5S
Touch ID is meant to unlock the iPhone automatically (one factor authentication) or to take you to the password unlock screen (two factor authentication). Before you can use Touch ID, the iPhone 5S will first need to be trained by letting it scan your finger from several angles. Touch ID accepts several fingers so you may train a number of fingers or even a number of people who are allowed to freely access the phone. Touch ID will also be used to authenticate iTunes purchases and in the future could be used to authentic multiple online apps and websites.
One big disadvantage of PIN and pattern based authentication is the ability for an intruder to look over your shoulder as you type in the PIN or draw the pattern. With Touch ID you don’t need to worry that the intruder is watching how you are pressing the home button. Leaving the phone with the kids will also not be anything to worry about. Forgotten passwords and PINs are also a thing of the past.
After I have bought my fiancee the iPhone 5S later this year, I will only wait until she is asleep then place her finger on the home button and there I go…