Touch ID Bypass Detailed, 'Average Consumer' Shouldn't Worry

Over the weekend, the Chaos Computer Club announced that it had bypassed Apple’s Touch ID sensor using a photograph of a fingerprint to create a fake fingerprint model.

The full fingerprint emulation process has now been detailed in a new video from CCC member Starbug and replicated by security expert Marc Rogers, who believes the average consumer has nothing to worry about.


As seen in the video, the CCC uses a fingerprint taken from the screen of the iPhone 5s and then uses a complicated multi-step process to convert it to a usable print. According to Starbug, who spoke to Ars Technica, the process "was way easier than expected," taking just 30 hours to complete.

I was very disappointed, as I hoped to hack on it for a week or two. There was no challenge at all; the attack was very straightforward and trivial.

The Touch ID is nevertheless a very reliable fingerprint system. However, users should only consider it an increase in convenience and not security.

While Starbug suggests that the hack is "very easy" and can be completed with "inexpensive office equipment like an image scanner, a laser printer, and a kit for etching PCBs," Marc Rogers, who also completed the bypass, disagrees, noting that it requires "over a thousand dollars worth of equipment."touchid

But, the reality is these flaws are not something that the average consumer should worry about. Why? Because exploiting them was anything but trivial.

Hacking TouchID relies upon a combination of skills, existing academic research and the patience of a Crime Scene Technician.

Rogers goes on to explain the process, which requires an unsmudged, complete print of the correct finger and a way to “lift” the print using cyanoacrylate (super glue) fumes, fingerprint powder, and fingerprint tape. The lifted fingerprint must then be photographed, edited, and printed onto transparency film, where it is converted to a usable fingerprint via a PCB board or a laser printer.

Even when all of these steps are created, using the fake fingerprint was "tricky" and prone to failure.

So what do we learn from all this?

Practically, an attack is still a little bit in the realm of a John le Carré novel. It is certainly not something your average street thief would be able to do, and even then, they would have to get lucky. Don’t forget you only get five attempts before TouchID rejects all fingerprints requiring a PIN code to unlock it.

However, let’s be clear, TouchID is unlikely to withstand a targeted attack. A dedicated attacker with time and resources to observe his victim and collect data, is probably not going to see TouchID as much of a challenge. Luckily this isn’t a threat that many of us face.

With Touch ID able to be bypassed through a fake fingerprint, it remains unclear how the system functions. According to Apple, the sensor uses advanced capacitive touch and takes a high-resolution image from the “sub-epidermal layers” of skin, a process that, theoretically, should render a fake fingerprint useless. Starbug speculates that this is due to Apple's desire for usability over security, noting that the sensor will be defeated if the fake fingerprint is "sufficiently close" to the characteristics of human tissue.

Since its release, Touch ID has been the subject of much scrutiny. Senator Al Franken has sent a letter to Tim Cook asking a number of questions about the security of the system and the exact fingerprint storage process, and Apple has published an extensive knowledge base article about the benefits of the Touch ID system to alleviate some consumer concerns.

Top Rated Comments

portishead Avatar
100 months ago
I'm just not that important for someone to go through all that trouble to fake my fingerprint. I'll continue to use Touch ID. It works fine for what I use it for.
Score: 43 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dwalls90 Avatar
100 months ago
If we could just add a short password and use TouchID then I think everything would be more secure.

No thanks.

Why would I want to use TouchID AND a passcode?

TouchID is supposed to remove the need for the passcode ...
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
portishead Avatar
100 months ago
It's just not save enough.

It frign save i promis
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pk7 Avatar
100 months ago
Before people say:

"I can't believe it! Anyone can hack my iPhone with thousands of dollars worth of stuff like an image scanner, a laser printer, and a kit for etching PCBs, all in only 30 hours!?

Touch ID is a failure!!! :mad:"
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Benjamins Avatar
100 months ago
use your nipples instead.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
peejack Avatar
100 months ago
They didn't 'bypass' anything.

Grow up mac rumours.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Tile to Leverage Amazon Echo and Ring Devices to Better Compete With AirTags

Friday May 7, 2021 2:07 pm PDT by
Amazon today announced that it is teaming up with Tile to add Amazon Sidewalk integration to Tile's Bluetooth trackers. Amazon Sidewalk, for those unfamiliar, is a network of Amazon Bluetooth devices that's designed to improve the connectivity of devices like the Ring and Amazon Echo. Tile will now be joining Amazon Sidewalk, and through this integration, Amazon Echo and Ring devices will be ...
Top Stories 59 Feature

Top Stories: Epic Games vs. Apple, Hidden AirTag Mode, Apple Music Hi-Fi, Colorful MacBook Air?

Saturday May 8, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
While we wait for the newly introduced iMac, iPad Pro, and Apple TV models to launch later this month, this week saw the kickoff of the big Epic Games v. Apple trial, with lots of juicy tidbits coming out as the two sides make their arguments. This week also saw some rumors about a Hi-Fi tier for Apple Music, more biometric sensing capabilities for Apple Watch, and timing for the...
airtag hacked

AirTag Successfully Hacked to Show Custom URL in Lost Mode

Monday May 10, 2021 1:52 am PDT by
The inevitable race to hack Apple's AirTag item tracker has reportedly been won by a German security researcher, who managed to break into the device's microcontroller and successfully modify its firmware. Yesss!!! After hours of trying (and bricking 2 AirTags) I managed to break into the microcontroller of the AirTag! 🥳🥳🥳/cc @colinoflynn @LennertWo pic.twitter.com/zGALc2S2Ph— stacksmashing ...
macbook colors 3d black bezels

Prosser: Next MacBook Air Could Come in Colors Similar to iMac

Friday May 7, 2021 6:55 am PDT by
According to Apple leaker Jon Prosser, Apple's upcoming release of the MacBook Air will feature various colors, similar to the colors in the newly released 24-inch iMac. In the latest video of his YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser says the same source who accurately provided him information on the first Apple silicon iMac coming in colors has told him that he recently saw a prototype...
zoom app icon

Apple Gave Zoom Access to Special API to Use iPad Camera During Split View Multitasking

Sunday May 9, 2021 2:00 am PDT by
Zoom, a hallmark platform used by millions during the global health crisis, has been given access to a special iPadOS API that allows the app to use the iPad camera while the app is in use in Split View multitasking mode. This case of special treatment was first brought to attention by app developer Jeremy Provost, who, in a blog post, explains that Zoom uses a special API that allows the...
Apple 5G Modem Feature

Kuo: Apple-Designed 5G Modem May Debut in iPhones as Early as 2023

Sunday May 9, 2021 10:02 pm PDT by
Apple plans to adopt its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the 2023 iPhones, meaning it'll no longer need to rely on Qualcomm to supply the 5G cellular modem for the iPhone, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple plans to include its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the launch of the 2023...
3d printed airtag case siri remote

3D-Printed Case Lets You Attach an AirTag to Your Apple TV Remote

Monday May 10, 2021 8:11 am PDT by
Apple recently released a redesigned Siri Remote with a physical clickpad, but if you have an original Siri Remote laying around that you still plan on using, you may be interested in getting an AirTag case for the remote. Etsy user PrintSpiredDesigns has capitalized on the opportunity with a new 3D printed, made-to-order AirTag case for the original Siri Remote. The remote slides into the...
iPhone 13 Camera Backs

iPhone 13 Models Will Be Slightly Thicker and Will Have Larger Camera Bumps

Monday May 10, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 models will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 models and will also feature larger, thicker camera bumps with lenses that protrude less, according to iPhone 13 schematics seen by MacRumors. The new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are expected to feature a thickness of 7.57mm, up from 7.4mm in the iPhone 12 models. That's an increase of 0.17mm, which won't be hugely ...
ifixit m1 macbook teardown

Leaked MacBook Schematics Have Aided Independent Technicians Performing Complicated Repairs

Monday May 10, 2021 8:51 am PDT by
Independent technicians have reportedly been able to use leaked MacBook schematics to aid repairs (via Vice). Last month, Apple supplier Quanta Computer was hit with an attack by the ransomware group known as "REvil," leading to a large quantity of internal Apple documents about both released and unreleased devices being exposed. The leaked PDFs, available on a number of forums and online...