Print 28 comment(s) - last by Mitch101.. on Sep 23 at 1:26 PM

  (Source: CNET)
But is the phone's highest profile feature vulnerable to hacking?

Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone 5S launched today on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, ten days after it was announced. And despite a lukewarm reception by media commentators and financial analysts, many of the iPhone faithful showed their support completing their now annual trek to camp, squat, or otherwise line up outside Apple stores across the country -- and around the world.

I. Annual Campouts Continue for Apple's Faithful Fans 

The Eaton Center, the biggest mall in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada saw hundreds of fans flock to the local Apple boutique, hoping to snag a new iPhone -- particularly the much desired, but rare gold-tinted iPhone 5S.
The line at the New York City store set a new record, while both the NYC and San Francisco stores sold out of their small stock of gold iPhone 5Ss.

iPhone 5S
No this isn't San Francisco's homeless population, it's Apple's unshowered fans.
[Image Source: Apple Insider]

Apple's executives showed up at stores in California in the early A.M. to greet fans.  CEO Tim Cook showed up to greet a line of over 230 fans in Palo Alton, Calif.: Eddy Cue (Apple's internet software and services VP) and Phil Schiller (worldwide marketing VP) were also on hand at the Stanford University's local Apple store: Clearly criticism aside, many Apple fans are still more than happy with the company's new device.

II. Hackers Hope to Break Fingerprint Sensor Protection

Another breaking story on Friday was a discussion on the security of the star feature of the iPhone 5S -- its fingerprint sensor.  While fingerprint sensing technology is nothing new or novel, Apple is looking to mainstream the technology for smartphones (The fingerprint sensor can only be used with dry fingers).

Apple claims that its data shows that nearly half of users don't password lock their phones, because they feel it takes too much effort.  At the iPhone 5S launch event ten days ago Apple executives lofted the iPhone 5S's in-button fingerprint sensor -- a smartphone industry first -- as a solution to this "problem".

iPhone 5S sensor
The iPhone 5S's sensor is secured by direct connections to the A7 SoC. [Image Source: Apple]

Apple bragged that the new sensor was ultra-secure, basically uncrackable.  Indeed the sensor features impressive security features.  The imaging sensor is protected by the laser-cut sapphire of the button head.  Intermnally it hooks up directly to a special portion of Apple's A7 system on a chip, which stores the fingerprint of the owner, encrypted, in embedded memory.

It seems like the iPhone is thus nearly impervious to digital attacks, short of disassembling the phone and tapping the lines to the fingerprint sensor.

But hackers are convinced the new security feature can be compromised.  A new URL asks a simple question that's exciting the iPhone hacking community:  The site says the current answer is:

No! ...but the following have offered a reward to the first person who can reliably and repeatedly break into an iPhone 5s by lifting prints (like from a beer mug).

The site follows with a bounty list offered up by various contributors that range from $10,000 USD in cash (from I/O Capital Partners), Bitcoins, a free patent application on the hack (from Cipher Law), to  "$100, a dirty sex book, and a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon" from Violet Blue, a sex advice/erotica columnist for CNETZDNet, CBS Corp. (CBS), and (formerly) BoingBoing.

iPhone 5S
Given the difficulty of attacking the specialist circuit on the A7 SoC, as the above post states, hackers are directing their early efforts towards physical attacks on the sensor.  They hope to use fake fingerprints to spoof it, similar to how hackers have spoofed laptop-unlocking facial recognition software with manipulated pictures of the target user.

Charlie Miller, the most famous Apple device hacker whose name isn't "Hotz", says that he expects the sensor may be compromised in two weeks or less.  Mr. Miller, who works at Twitter now, respectfully declined to join the race to find an exploit for the sensor.

III. iOS  7 Exploits Kick Off With Control Center Bug

Arturas Rosenbacher, founding partner of Chicago's IO Capital, tells Reuters that the competition isn't looking to create exploits that could harm iPhone users.  Rather, he says that the competition is design to protect users against a false sense of security regarding a feature that might be less secure than Apple says.

He explains, "This is to fix a problem before it becomes a problem.  This will make things safer."

After a two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Military, cyber-security analyst David Kennedy is among the users vying for the fingerprint sensor prize.  Mr. Kennedy, who has a security consulting firm TrustedSec LLC and organizes the DerbyCon hacker convention, comments, "I am just waiting to get my hands on it to figure out how to get around it first.  I'll be up all night trying."

But for now a far simpler exploit is grabbing headlines.  Jose Rodriguez, a 36-year-old soldier living in Spain’s Canary Islands, discovered a very simple vulnerability to unlock a password or fingerprint sensor locked iOS 7 device.  He showed off this simple vulnerability involving the new "control center" in a YouTube video post:

Apple has acknowledge the flaw breaks iOS 7 device security, and promised to roll out a patch shortly.

Sources: Twitter, Reuters, YouTube

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RE: Sigh...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/20/2013 4:12:52 PM , Rating: 4
The device cannot distinguish between what's alive and not. It only knows to check for parameters that could be duplicated sufficient enough as to be accepted.

RE: Sigh...
By amanojaku on 9/21/2013 12:33:35 AM , Rating: 3
Stop spreading lies, Reclaimer! The iPhone can tell who is alive and who isn't! The magical iPhone can peer into the very depths of your soul, and can find disembodied spirits lost in the astral plane!

Seriously, though, I may be giving Apple too much credit in thinking it does liveness detection, although AuthenTec claims it's supported this for years. Pulse detection, sweat patterns, etc... may be too difficult for the TouchID sensor to measure, but I haven't read the patents, and no one has tested this out yet.

However, it IS possible. I'm trying to be objective...

Biometrics Myths

Stephanie Schuckers

Comparison of ridge- and intensity-based perspiration liveness detection methods in fingerprint scanners

Liveness Detection for Fingerprint Scanners Based on the Statistics of Wavelet Signal Processing

Liveness Detection—LivDet 2009

RE: Sigh...
By retrospooty on 9/22/2013 4:51:39 PM , Rating: 3
cracked in two days flat. Lol.

Tony was sure it could not be cracked. LOL we all know he lives in and Apple fantasy world though so I guess that's to be expected.

RE: Sigh...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/22/2013 7:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
What did I tell ya? Lifted print right off the phone! Suck it Tony:)

RE: Sigh...
By retrospooty on 9/22/2013 8:14:23 PM , Rating: 2
It was a really impressive 2 day run though. ;)

RE: Sigh...
By Mitch101 on 9/23/2013 1:26:52 PM , Rating: 2
When I heard finger print scanner I recalled this article and was hoping Gummy Bears were the first to crack it.

Aussie Kids Foil Finger Scanner With Gummi Bears

RE: Sigh...
By amanojaku on 9/22/2013 8:48:07 PM , Rating: 3
That's not a trustworthy test. The TouchID is being "hacked" by the same person whose fingerprints are registered with the phone. The fact that he's using a latex sheet doesn't mean anything, either, since capacitive scanners can read beyond epidermal layers (and at least one company touts reading through latex gloves as a feature). And we never saw the sheet, so we don't know if it has a fingerprint on it or not. There weren't any other methods tested, either (photocopy, casts, etc...), or repeated tests.

There is a second video, however, with a second person using a latex sheet. Again, we don't know if the second person's fingerprints were registered before the test.

I'm not defending Apple; I've shown my dislike of the company over the years. I'm just saying we shouldn't jump to conclusions until independent verification comes out. I'm particularly concerned about the test description. It mentions wood glue is used to make the fake print, but that's not supposed to work for capacitive readers:

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled.

RE: Sigh...
By retrospooty on 9/22/2013 9:14:02 PM , Rating: 2
Sure... Within weeks (if not days) we will know for sure.

So far there arent any unhackable consumer products, and very few unhackable enterprise/govt. systems the complexity of which would make it 100x too expensive for a consumer product. This could always be the worlds first unhackable comsumer product... hehe. hehehehe.... hehehehehehehe.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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