We’ve moved to an era where a fingerprint becomes a digital signature or a password
Technology has moved passwords from the tip of your tongue to the tip of your fingers, claims a tech fan.
AD: Hey, do you know that Apple is coming out with a new typewriter called iType?
AD: Now that I have your attention, here’s the real news — Apple has launched the iPhone 5s with Touch ID.
BC: What's that?
AD: Amazing how your question remains unchanged regardless of whether it’s a typewriter or an iPhone. Touch ID is a biometric system that uses your fingerprint as a security device to unlock your mobile. So your fingerprint becomes your digital signature or your password.
BC: But what if I hurt my fingers? What if they're bandaged or have a plaster on them? What if I nick them while...
AD: Hold on, you can record up to five fingerprints, so any of them can be used.
BC: But think of all those people who use their hands and their fingers at work — musicians, homemakers who cook and wash, writers who type non-stop... So what'll they use if their fingers get worn out — their pet's paw print?
AD: Well, a cat's paw print has already been used to unlock the 5s, but that’s because it was registered as one of the five possible impressions that can unlock the phone.
BC: So how long does it take to unlock a phone using Touch ID?
AD: Possibly a second — the amazing part is that you don't have to place the finger in the same way that you did when you registered the fingerprint. The sensor is smart enough to detect the impression from any angle...
BC: Computers, phones, digital music players, tablets — and now fingerprint recognition. I can't see where Apple is going with this...
AD: In fact, Apple planned for this over a year ago and bought over a company called AuthenTec, which specialises in fingerprint readers and ID management software.
BC: But is it safe? There are so many instances of hacking that we read about...
AD: Ok, a hacking team that calls itself the Chaos Computer Club seems to have confirmed your worst fears — it claims to have cracked the security system and has even posted videos of how it went about it. This happened less than three days after the launch... And wipe that smug expression off your face.
BC: So how has the response been to Touch ID and to the 5s?
AD: According to reports, over six million customers have ordered the 5s in the first weekend of its launch.
BC: Great, so that's six million fingerprints, and with five options each, it's 30 million in all. Where are all these fingerprints stored?
AD: I see where you're going with this. Your fingerprints are digitally encrypted and stored in your mobile's processor, so in case you think Apple has access to them or that they are all stored in a central server, waiting to be hacked...
BC: But I still don't understand all this fuss over unlocking a phone.
AD: Isn't using your finger to unlock the device a lot simpler than entering a 4-digit passcode each time?
BC: There have been other instances where fingerprint authentication has been tried out, but has not proved to be very successful...
AD: The latest technology is fine-tuning the whole process. It's not just Apple — other mobile manufacturers are also throwing in their lot with fingerprint identity sensors. Computers and tablets are also following suit...
BC: So what happens if I've left my mobile home and my wife wants to use it?
AD: There's always a backup — you can opt to use the regular passcode, as with all iPhones. In fact, there's also an option by which you can choose to disable Touch ID.
BC: With half the world choosing to use 1234 as the passcode, I'm not sure which is scarier of the two — a finger that's broken or a security feature that can easily be broken into.