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

(View all)
Avatar
91 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)
Avatar
91 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)
Avatar
91 months ago

It's just not save enough.


It frign save i promis
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
91 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)
Avatar
91 months ago
use your nipples instead.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
91 months ago
They didn't 'bypass' anything.

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

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of 3rd party widgets at launch, iOS users around the...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Friday September 18, 2020 1:19 pm PDT by
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch. Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE Hands-On! When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like...

iOS 14 Picture in Picture No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website in Safari [Without Premium]

Friday September 18, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. When Picture in Picture was working with YouTube The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

AirPods Studio Rumored to Come With U1 Chip, Ultra-Wideband Said to Be Vital to Future Apple Ecosystem

Sunday September 20, 2020 6:17 am PDT by
Proven leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared a range of information about the ultra-wideband U1 chip in Apple's upcoming AirTags item trackers and AirPods Studio headphones. The first of a series of tweets shared today simply stated that AirPods Studio will contain an ultra-wideband U1 chip. It seems likely that the U1 chip would be used in AirPods Studio to track the location of...

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

Top Stories: Apple Event Recap, Apple Watch Series 6, Redesigned iPad Air, and More

Saturday September 19, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
This week's news was obviously dominated by Apple's media event and the launch of iOS 14, but there was a lot to digest, so check out our summary below for the high-level view of the past week. With the exception of the massively redesigned iPad Air, all of the new hardware introduced this week is starting to appear on store shelves and on customers' doorsteps, while all of the new software...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...