Apple Offers Additional Details on Touch ID, iPhone 5s Won't Store Fingerprint Images

Amid fears about the security of Apple's new Touch ID fingerprint sensor, an Apple spokesman has told The Wall Street Journal that the phone will only store the data used to recognize fingerprints, rather than actual images

Apple's new iPhone 5S, which comes with a fingerprint scanner, won't store actual images of users' fingerprints on the device, a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday, a decision that could ease concerns from privacy hawks.

Rather, Apple's new Touch ID system only stores "fingerprint data," which remains encrypted within the iPhone's processor, a company representative said Wednesday.

In practice, this means that even if someone cracked an iPhone's encrypted chip, they likely wouldn't be able to reverse engineer someone’s fingerprint.

Announced yesterday, Touch ID is a new security feature built into the home button of the iPhone 5s, designed to allow users to unlock their phones and authorize iTunes purchases with a finger scan. The sensor captures a high-resolution image of a fingerprint, analyzing it to provide accurate readings.


During its Touch ID presentation, Apple was quick to specify that all fingerprint information is encrypted and stored "in the Secure Enclave inside the A7 chip on the iPhone 5s" rather than being stored on Apple servers or backed up to iCloud. Developers are also not being provided with access to user fingerprints as a means of authentication.

Apple also gave the The Wall Street Journal a few other tips on the fingerprint sensor, noting that it occasionally malfunctions with moist fingers or fingers scarred by accidents and surgery. The company also explained that Touch ID must be supplemented with a passcode.

Apple customers who wish the use Touch ID also have to create a passcode as a backup. Only that passcode (not a finger) can unlock the phone if the phone is rebooted or hasn’t been unlocked for 48 hours. This feature is meant to block hackers from stalling for time as they try to find a way to circumvent the fingerprint scanner.

The iPhone 5s, with the new Touch ID functionality, is set to be released to consumers on September 20. Apple is not accepting pre-orders for the device.

Top Rated Comments

Freida Avatar
103 months ago
All I know is that it takes 4-5 seconds to home button + slide to unlock + passcode and even longer if you are using alpha numeric password.

Personally I unlock my phone ~50 times per day.

Saving ~4 seconds between slide to unlock and passcode is roughly ~200 seconds per day saved unlocking my phone or ~3 minutes. 3 minutes per day equates to roughly ~18 hours per year or more than $5,000 worth of lost productivity unlocking my phone.

That alone makes this touch sensor worth while.
I would have to troll on your post and get banned. Your post is crazy.
If you are so concerned about time lost whilst unlocking the phone then why are you on macrumors chatting about it. I'm sure that lost you way more time.

Facepalm is NOT enough in this case!
Score: 55 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThisIsNotMe Avatar
103 months ago
All I know is that it takes 4-5 seconds to home button + slide to unlock + passcode and even longer if you are using alpha numeric password.

Personally I unlock my phone ~50 times per day.

Saving ~4 seconds between slide to unlock and passcode is roughly ~200 seconds per day saved unlocking my phone or ~3 minutes. 3 minutes per day equates to roughly ~18 hours per year or more than $5,000 worth of lost productivity unlocking my phone.

That alone makes this touch sensor worth while.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BC2009 Avatar
103 months ago
For those who don't understand cryptographic one-way hashes, they cannot be reversed to produce the original data without a dictionary attack. A dictionary attack in this case would require a collection of actual human fingers or replicas of them to run through Apple's Touch ID to see which cryptographic hashes match the one stored on the device.

Also note, that their is a really really really small chance that two fingerprints will generate the same cryptographic hash. Cryptographic hashes by their very nature have LESS data than the source data for which they are hash. This means that the if the source data has potentially quadrillions of combinations that there may be only billions of values that they hash to (a one to many mapping of hashes to source data). More likely scenario is that your fingerprint hashes to the same value as a fingerprint that does not currently exist on the planet today and may never exist.

Think of a large 500-page book as a just a collection of letters, numbers, spaces, and punctation. You could pound on the keyboard and produce a book of random text or you could carefully craft an actual readable book. The hash reduces the book to a hash of say 500 characters which is generated in such a way that even changing a single letter in the book or the capitalization of a single letter produces an entirely different hash (cryptographic hash algorithms magnify any change to cyclically change other parts). Obviously, there is no way you could take 500 characters of data and regenerate the 500-page book (that would be the most amazing lossless-compression algorithm in the world, but also mathematically impossible). Because of this you cannot reverse it. You could however, run a hash on all books known to man to find the one that matches the same value (a dictionary attack). Finally, there is a possibility that two carefully crafted books hash to the same value, but it is far more likely that a book's hash would match some of the billions of permutations of random letters , numbers, spaces, and symbols that have never been bound into a book.

It is the same for fingerprint data. Your actual fingerprint could only be determined if somebody already had a replica of your finger in a database and could make Apple's Touch ID sensor generate the same hash from it. The worst somebody could do is break into your phone or prove that a phone did indeed belong to you. What's more, the odds of somebody else's fingerprint matching yours is like two monkeys pounding out the exact same content on a keyboard after an hour of bashing away at it. Either way, there is no chance of your fingerprint being cloned and used in other places to impersonate your presence.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BigHonkingDeal Avatar
103 months ago
All I know is that it takes 4-5 seconds to home button + slide to unlock + passcode and even longer if you are using alpha numeric password.

Personally I unlock my phone ~50 times per day.

Saving ~4 seconds between slide to unlock and passcode is roughly ~200 seconds per day saved unlocking my phone or ~3 minutes. 3 minutes per day equates to roughly ~18 hours per year or more than $5,000 worth of lost productivity unlocking my phone.

That alone makes this touch sensor worth while.

Good to know that you make more than $277 an hour :)
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Porco Avatar
103 months ago
Dear Apple, I'm sorry because I realise it's not really your fault, but I don't trust that the NSA haven't nobbled you, and nothing you have said so far leads me to… um think different, as it were.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SandboxGeneral Avatar
103 months ago
That's additional good news. It sounds, so far, like Apple has done their homework and paid attention to the security headlines this year.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
Apple Leak Feature

Apple Demands Leaker Reveals Sources Under Threat of Being Reported to Police

Wednesday July 28, 2021 6:53 am PDT by
Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to a leaker based in China as part of its continuing attempts to curtail leaks of unreleased products, according to Vice. A Chinese citizen who shared images of stolen Apple prototypes on social media was sent a warning letter from Fangda Partners, Apple's law firm in China, on June 18, 2021. An extract from the letter read:You have disclosed without ...
macos monterey tidbits feature copy

Apple Releases New macOS 12 Monterey Public Beta

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:19 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third public beta of the macOS 12 Monterey beta to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to test the new macOS Monterey software ahead of its public release. The third beta comes two weeks after Apple released the second macOS Monterey public beta. Public beta testers can download the macOS 12 Monterey update from the Software Update section of the System...
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Apple Releases New Public Betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:16 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to download and test the new updates ahead of their fall release. The third public betas come two weeks after Apple released the second public betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS 15 updates over the air after...
nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...