iPhone 5s: How Fingerprint Scanners Work

So the new iPhone has
a fingerprint scanner. Exactly how secure is that? Anthony here for D News, and
biometric fingerprint scanners like the one in the
iPhone aren’t new. They’ve been used in military
and industrial security for a long time. You can get them on
a lot of computers, but it’s still kind of a
novelty on everyday devices. Fingerprints are crazy things. All these little ridges are
super important to your sense of touch, but they’re
also a really unique form of identification. Even identical twins don’t
have the same fingerprints, because small differences
in pressure in the womb actually cause them
to be different. Which makes the idea of
having a fingerprint scanner on your phone a really nice one. All your personal
information protected by the one type of
identification you have that can’t be forged. But here’s the thing. You could have the same
fingerprint to someone else. We just haven’t come across
a case of them matching yet. It would be hard to run a
completely scientific study on whether it’s true that
fingerprints are unique, because you would need every
fingerprint from every person in the world to be 100% sure. But we can safely say that
they are unique enough to protect your
selfies and your sexts. A capacitive
fingerprint scanner is a sensor made of tons
of tiny cells– like, smaller than the ridges
on your fingertips tiny. Which makes sense,
because those sensors use the flow of electricity to
see where your fingerprints are coming into contact
with the sensor. It’s a lot like the touch
screen on the iPhone now, but much more sensitive. Other fingerprint
scanners are optical, meaning they take
a high resolution photo of your fingerprint
and compare it to what they have on file. Fingerprint scanners
have to take a lot into account– smudging,
dirt, all kinds of things that might give a false
positive or negative. So they don’t tend
to try to match every single piece of a
fingerprint every time. Once it stores
your initial print, the software in
the scanner looks for things like where specific
ridges split into two, or where your central swirl is. It actually takes note of where
all the distinguishing details are in comparison to
each other, and makes a sort of map of landmarks
on your fingerprint. And then it looks for matches to
those defining characteristics every time you touch your
finger to the scanner. And depending on the
level of security needed for the situation it’ll
need more matches to unlock. So can you fool the
fingerprint scanner? Yeah. Optical scanners can
get tricked sometimes by a nice high resolution
picture of a fingerprint. A capacitive one like
the iPhone’s would need a 3D mold of
the fingerprint. If someone stole your finger at
the same time as your iPhone, they could get
into it no problem. Not that I’m trying to
give anyone any ideas. Anyway, at really
secure facilities, the scanners can
actually check to see if the finger is still alive
and attached to a body, so there’s that. The combination of a fingerprint
scanner and the ability to make wireless payments is
making a wallet and credit cards and maybe even ID
cards a thing of the past. I love the idea
of the simplicity, but I lose and break phones too
often to like that, I think. Plus, the scary thing about
all in one identification is that when someone
does manage to hack it, it’s much harder to
prove identity theft and get your stuff back. So, 50-50 good to
spooky ratio in my mind. Let me know how you
feel about it down below and subscribe for more D News.

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