Apple's released a phone with a fingerprint reader built-in and guess what: it's been hacked. Its encryption's been shredded. It's been NSA'd.
According to the BBC, Germany's Chaos Computer Club claims it "successfully bypassed the biometric security of Apple's Touch ID" by photographing a fingerprint left on a glass surface and creating a fake finger they used to unlock the phone.
So if you've got a bunch of hacker-types following you around lifting your fingerprints from glass surfaces, well, you'd better carefully guard that new iPhone.
These sorts of stories create eye-catching headlines, but what do they really tell us about security? Physical security remains paramount. Snatch-and-run thefts of iPhones are so common in large US cities that the crime has acquired a nickname among law enforcement: "Apple-picking."
Fortunately, Hong Kong has a low level of street crime (and few computer clubs interested in "chaos"). You're far likelier to misplace your phone than have it snatched or have your finger cloned by miscreants.
Here's a more useful strategy: change your device's defaults. Many people don't do this. For example--that obnoxious whistle-tone you hear so often nowadays? Clearly the default for some Android device. Why don't people change it? Some sheeplike instinct to be one with the herd?
No. Many users never bother with the default-settings. With whistling message-tones, it's merely annoying. But with password-settings, it's a security issue. Criminals are well aware of default-settings.
Change them on your devices. And be aware of your surroundings. Your new iPhone is a security issue if you use it to fiddle with Facebook while punching in your PIN at an ATM. Use the phone (or your other hand) to cover the keypad instead. Basic security remains...basic.
Here's what worries me about Apple's new scheme: "your fingerprint can also approve purchases from iTunes Store, the App Store, and the iBooks Store, so you don't have to enter your password...[and] because Touch ID lets you enroll multiple fingerprints, it knows the people you trust, too."
The "one-click" purchase beloved by Amazon as well as Apple makes it easy to purchase products on impulse. If it's something you need and you've considered the purchase, fine. But as your credit card information is stored with the vendor, all it takes is a finger-swipe or mouse-click and you (or the teenager you authorized) bought whatever was listed. Perhaps a fingerprint/passcode combination is a good option for some users.
Impulse-buys are a retail staple, but buying a packet of candy at the supermarket checkout won't break the bank. Software purchase-decisions shouldn't be made so lightly. Leave your authorized phone within a toddler's reach and you might find yourself owning the entire Justin Bieber library.
Don't worry about the Chaos Computer Club and their fake fingers. Take reasonable security precautions with the computer in your pocket.