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July 31, 2013

Guest Blog: Problems with Apple fingerprint scanning

Andy Kemshall, co-founder and technical director at SecurEnvoy, outlines why Apple's fingerprint scanning technology would expose users to security risks.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Andy Kemshall

Apple has confirmed its plan to use fingerprint scanning technology as an authentication method on its new devices. This is not surprising but will undoubtedly leave users exposed to security risks.

Biometric authentication is not yet near the level it needs to be for the majority of consumer facing organisations to implement it in their products. There are industries in which it does make sense to use the technology though, such as those in which many people are using a single or small number of devices. For example, airports often use a passport and eye ball scan to authenticate a traveller. But for an organisation such as Apple, which is creating multiple products for multiple users, it could not realistically enforce such a method.

Fingerprint scanning, eyeball scanning, voice and face recognition are all at least a decade away from being reliable enough to use as authentication methods. The technology simply isn’t sophisticated enough. Take the face recognition method for example – as the technology stands, a device will unlock just by holding up a photo of the owner.

Not only is the technology unreliable, but from a social side, people are wary of authentication methods which involve their own body parts. It sounds extreme but if a terrorist wants to use someone’s finger print to access important information about a high profile company, they might just take the whole finger!

Using technology already owned by the individual, rather than a body part, such as SMS authentication through mobile phones, is a more secure and cost effective method for organisations creating new products. It has a 99.9 per cent reliability rate if passcodes are preloaded and is far less prone to faults so less risk of unwanted users trying to access an individual’s details.

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