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

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93 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)
Avatar
93 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)
Avatar
93 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)
Avatar
93 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)
Avatar
93 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)
Avatar
93 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)

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