Thieves won't be able to sever your finger to unlock the iPhone 5S

By on September 17, 2013, 4:00 PM
apple, iphone, smartphone, security, thieves, iphone 5s, fingerprint technology

Although it’s probably not something that concerns most of us, some individuals are worried that there’s an inherent flaw in the upcoming iPhone 5S’s fingerprint authentication system: a thief could potentially sever your finger and use the appendage to unlock the device. Once inside, they could access protected third party apps and potentially break into one’s bank account.

After all, this wouldn't be the first time that something like this has happened. Years ago, a man lost his finger to a gang of  Malaysian car thieves who were trying to start his fingerprint-secured Mercedes S-class sedan.

A secondary concern is that if fingerprint validation becomes the industry standard, then once yours is stolen, there’s nothing you can really do about it. At least with a passcode, you can just make a new one after it’s been compromised; an option that clearly doesn’t exist with personal body parts.

Despite these concerns, Apple has informed users that their fingers are safe. Unlike traditional scanners which work by optics alone, the iPhone 5S will use radio frequency scanners to probe beneath the layer of dead skin that's on the outside. Long story short, your finger must be “alive” for your phone to be unlocked; a stand-alone appendage or an accurate plastic model won’t do the trick.

Sebastien Taveau, chief technology officer at fingerprint sensor provider Validity Sensors, explained to Mashable, “The technology is built in a way that the image has to be taken from a live finger. No one in biometrics wants to talk about cut fingers and dead bodies, but at the end of the day we are still asked to remove the fears of consumers and make sure they understand that a severed finger will not work.”

Of course, there are several other ways that a thief could break into an iPhone. The most obvious method would involve forcing someone to unlock the smartphone themselves, potentially using a gun as an effective motivational tool.




User Comments: 21

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4 people like this | Guest said:

Let's hope all the iPhone jackers who are already sharpening their pruning shears are regular TechSpot readers.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Just stick the phone under their finger while they sleep, and tada!

OliTheG OliTheG said:

Remember when Mythbusters did fingerprint scanning door locks?

All they had to do was heat the finger, or take a thin plasticy mould of the finger before placing it over the thief's finger, and BAM.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

When I get my new iPhone 5S, I'm using my middle finger as my logon digit. That way, if they sever my finger at least they'll know what I thin of them whenever they try to fire up the old iPhone.

Guest said:

Cut the finger off, transplant to the thief's hand (cut off his finger first, too), then use it to unlock the iPhone and steal the new Angry Birds app's high scores. Or, even better, transplant the thief's brain into the victim's body to access all his assets.

1 person liked this | ikesmasher said:

Remember when Mythbusters did fingerprint scanning door locks?

All they had to do was heat the finger, or take a thin plasticy mould of the finger before placing it over the thief's finger, and BAM.

Oh bananas, the thief now has access to your instagram.

National security is now at risk.

1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

In another news, Tim Cook loses his finger in a bizarre accident...

Guest said:

So we wont see Zombies with Iphone 5S ;-)

wcbert said:

But it will not stop the dumb thieves from trying and the really dumb ones will use there own server finger!

VitalyT VitalyT said:

But it will not stop the dumb thieves from trying and the really dumb ones will use there own server finger!

Don't kid yourself, we are all dumb...

TheBigFatClown said:

Let's hope all the iPhone jackers who are already sharpening their pruning shears are regular TechSpot readers.

I completely agree with this statement. It could be read as a joke but how many thieves who steal tablets and devices even know all that much about the devices they are stealing.

This is a ******* terrible idea for nothing more than to save a replaceable piece of electronic equipment.

Im guessing anybody who has the phone can still dial 911 in an emergency. But what about lending somebody your phone for a day. How do they use it? Will the phone be unlockable for more than 1 fingerprint..? That would make it 'somewhat' less painful to swallow.

I already have GPS tracking technology on my phone for thieves. God forbid some ***** steals the phone and then wants my fingers too. The thief not even knowing that they won't work unattached.

This technology is just creepy. I hope it fails like Windows 8 has.

Just my two cents. Will this even deter crime? A thief steals the phone 'not knowing' it has fingerprint security and doesn't find out until he is long gone. Then he just throws phone in the garbage or crushes it with a hammer.

The only people who could benefit from this type of technology are people carrying classified government secrets around on their cellphones. And that might even be stupid also.

My grade for this technology. Fail(just like Windows 8 ).

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

My gun will be persuading thieves to -not- unlock my phone.

Seventh Reign Seventh Reign said:

Well Duhhh. Go stick your finger in ice water for a few seconds. Dry it off and try to use your phone's touch screen.

You cant.

Its the same concept. A severed finger would have to be kept on Ice to keep it from decaying.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Of course, there are several other ways that a thief could break into an iPhone. The most obvious method would involve forcing someone to unlock the smartphone themselves, potentially using a gun as an effective motivational tool.
A gun would work just as well to obtain a password........don't cha think?

Emexrulsier said:

If ppl really believe this is going to happen they need their heads cutting off and binning cause there is obviously nothing of any use contained in there!

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

My question is "How do you point the finger at the thieves after reporting the crime to the cops if you don't have one?" The thieves probably don't know which finger you use to unlock the phone so they may as well sever all eight and your two thumbs.

dennis777 dennis777 said:

How can you say it fail if you have not try it yet? same for windows 8

and for the thieves, you cant lie for your password if your using a finger for unlock.

Guest said:

...I want to know how they tested this. :)

fimbles fimbles said:

I am guessing it does not have to be alive, It just needs a "pulse" and the correct temp.

Tygerstrike said:

Its a novelty selling point. Thats all. Remember the American consumer is LAZY!! So much so that the moment this tech becomes a nuisanse, they will abandon it and move on. Its to give the "illusion" of safety. Thats all. Im sure all the enterprising hackers will have this cracked within two weeks. So all of this is just BS drama for drama sake guys. We wont know the effects until time has reached the point when it is introduced. So try and relax a little. Odds are it wont make it to the Iphone 6.

Guest said:

Just cut off both arms...you cant go wrong, unless he is using toe-prints.... :)

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