$15,000, whisky and a sex book: Hackers crowdsource reward to crack Apple's fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s

Touch ID comes as standard on Apple's new iPhone 5s but hackers are already trying to find ways to bypass the technology

Hackers have launched a competition to successfully crack the security surrounding Touch ID: the fingerprint scanner built into Apple’s newly launched iPhone 5s.

A reward for the first successfully verified hack has been crowdsourced on the site istouchidhackedyet.com.

The pot currently totals more than $15,000 with several bottles of whisky and a “dirty sex book” thrown in.

Individuals involved say that there is no malevolent intent in the competition. Arturas Rosenbacher, founding partner of I/O Capital - a venture capital firm that donated $10,000 to the competition - said that the site would help the hacking community find bugs that Apple might have missed.

“This is to fix a problem before it becomes a problem," Rosenbacher told Reuters. "This will make things safer."

There are no known security flaws specific to Apple’s fingerprint scanner but previous implementations of the technology have been fooled with distinctly lo-tech methods.

One approach known as the ‘Gummy Bear attack’ was pioneered by Japanese cryptographer Tsutomu Matsumoto. It involves photographing fingertips at high-resolution with a digital camera and then transferring this impression onto a fake finger made from gelatine (the gelling agent found in Gummy Bears and other sweets). Using this technique Matsumoto fooled fingerprint scanners 80 per cent of the time.

The fingerprint sensor in Apple’s iPhone 5s initially provoked scepticism over its utility, but reviewers have since praised the company for the seamless integration of the technology. Mainly used to unlock the phone, the sensor is housed in the home button and stores the user’s fingerprint on a “secure enclave” in the 5s.

Reviewing the device for The Independent, David Phelan said: “Once you've got used to not typing in your passcode, keeping your phone secure isn't a chore. I was sceptical of this gimmick but it quickly won me over.”

The 5s has certainly proved popular with customers with demand for the new device (which also includes a 64-bit processor and an upgraded camera) far outstripping supply. Within an hour of the handset being put on sale on Apple's website the shipping time was delayed, first by "7 to 10 business days" and then until October.

Others are less enthusiastic. Robert Hansen of security firm WhiteHat Security told The Independent: “Hackers widely dislike fingerprint technology. The security world has been trying to tell companies for years that biometrics like fingerprints are the passwords that can never change and that you leave every place you touch.”

“Hackers dislike the privacy implications of the potential for companies to harvest fingerprint data - especially in light of the privacy issues being released in Snowden's NSA leaks, people are becoming less trusting of companies storing sensitive and irrevocable information like fingerprints.”

Experiments with Touch ID have also found that it's not just human fingerprints that the technology responds to. Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch managed to set up his iPhone 5s so that is unlocks in response to the heel of his palm, the skin on his arm, and even his cat's paw.

"Note that no other paw pads would unlock the device, and that cats essentially have unique “fingerprints” just like people, so this doesn’t make the Touch ID sensor any less secure," wrote Etherington. See below for a video of his findings in action.

 

(Click here to see our guide to iOS 7 - the latest update to Apple's mobile operating system, and not just limited to the 5s and 5c)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor