Hackers crowdfund bounty to hack iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner

Hackers crowdfund bounty to hack iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner

Summary: Just as Apple's iPhone 5S is about get into the hands of consumers, hackers offer a growing bounty to whoever hacks Apple's fingerprint scanner. UPDATED.

TOPICS: Security, Apple, iOS, iPhone

Apple's iPhone 5S comes with a fingerprint scanner and it is now the subject of an online contest started by hackers who are offering a bounty to the first person to hack the biometric lock.

The list at istouchidhackedyet.com is open to anyone who wants to join in offering a reward, and the amount total for doing the dirty deed is growing by the hour.

UPDATE 9/19 12:36 PDT: The total crowdsourced bounty for istouchidackedyet is now over $15,000 - VC firm and startup accelerator IO Capital has added $10,000 to the contest. See: Charlatan hijacks iPhone 5S fingerprint hack contest, fools press. Apple has not responded.

The iPhone 5S is already in "short supply" for Friday's launch - and hackers are most certainly among those eager to get their hands on the premium phone.

As of this writing the amount of the community-sourced, crowdfunded bounty is $2200 (plus various items and bottles of alcohol), from 28 individuals. Of course, some of the payment is in Bitcoin.

Apple is not on the list.

Those interested in joining the bounty offer simply need to tweet their amount or offering to the #istouchidhackedyet hash tag.

Apple added the fingerprint scanner as a security boost for its flagship device, and a biometric lock is what could straddle the line between convenience and security for many consumers.

iphone 5s bounty

The scanner on Apple's new phone is a capacitance scanner. Rather than using the electro-optical method to capture and record a fingerprint, which produces an image, Apple's scanner uses capaciative cells and conductor plates to create feedback that generates a code.

For the iPhone 5S, fingerprint ridges cause tiny plates to contact and close a circuit and generating current. Apple's software reads the energy of each cell to select which one is under a ridge and which is under a valley.

After the print is read and code is generated, it's sent to Apple's encrypted microprocessor.

An Apple spokesperson addressed widespread concerns about the security of such a feature when commenting to the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, saying that Apple’s new Touch ID system only stores “fingerprint data,” which remains encrypted within the iPhone’s processor.

It is undetermined if the biometric data is encrypted before being sent to the microprocessor. At this time, Apple is not allowing third-party apps access to the fingerprint scanner's data.

The mood among the hackers behind istouchidhackedyet.com is jovial.

Some readers will remeber the Open Kinect Bounty offered by Adafruit Industries in 2010, which offered a $2000 bounty to anyone who could write and release open source drivers for the Microsoft Kinect.

Microsoft was not pleased. From the beginning, Microsoft said it vowed to "work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant"

One of the hackers behind the website and bounty drive, Robert David Graham, told ZDNet:

To be clear, the main reason Nick and I are doing this is because we think it's harder than most people think.

ZDNet has reached out to Apple for comment on the istouchidhackedyet.com bounty/hacking contest and we will update this post with Apple's response.

Updated 21:25 PDT to add statement from Mr. Graham.

Topics: Security, Apple, iOS, iPhone

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  • Good. I hope that it goes uncollected for years.

    PLEASE, try to hack a phone, one phone, only one phone. (Real crackers/hackers would better employ their time trying to hack some corporation or some bank's servers.)

    But if it has to be pried apart and wrecked to do it, YOU LOSE, since the same amount of force could be applied to a phone's owner to make them reveal everything. Real BRUTE force, if yiou will.

    The role of fingerprint recognition is not to make a phone's security bullet proof, its to make it more convenient to use your thumb print to authenticate the hand that is holding it.

    Its is also to make casual iPhone theft by people with room temperature IQs not worth the effort.
    • Just a quibble...

      "All I ask is a video of the process from print, lift, reproduction and successful unlock with reproduced print."

      All Nick Petrillo asks for is a video? And he tells them what he wants on the video. But never asks for any actual _proof_ of a successful exploit/circumvention.

      I'll bet someone could gin up a pretty convincing video _simulation_ of what he asks. I just wonder if NickDe is really interested in testing security, or more in just trying to pop Apple's bubble, whether its represents a genuine workaround or not.
    • 3 Days!

      Too about 3 days to crack:
      "...“First, the fingerprint of the enrolled user is photographed with 2400 dpi resolution. The resulting image is then cleaned up, inverted and laser printed with 1200 dpi onto transparent sheet with a thick toner setting. Finally, pink latex milk or white woodglue is smeared into the pattern created by the toner onto the transparent sheet. After it cures, the thin latex sheet is lifted from the sheet, breathed on to make it a tiny bit moist and then placed onto the sensor to unlock the phone..."

      So much for all the RF & capacitance sensors purportedly making visual copies of prints useless. All it needed was hi-res scans and similar capacitance to bypass.
  • Since the grease marke left by a finger print won't have

    The capacitance of the original, this bounty is going to go uncollected for a long time.
    • Here's how...

      I don't/won't own an iPhone, so I will not be attempting a solution - but here's what I would try if I did:

      I would capture the fingerprint image in my PC. I would then invert the image so black is white and white is black. I would make several copies of this image at various brightness & contrast levels. Then I would tape a piece of tin foil to a sheet of paper to make it conductive. Then lastly, I would print out my images of the tin foil to create appropriate areas of non-conductivity. Then I would test to see which image worked most reliably.
      • It wouldn't work. The sensor doesn't work on the optical characteristics

        of the print, but the various electrical properties of the three dimensional ridge structure. Any attempts to trick the sensor using a picture will fail.
        • it's still optical

          It reads the fingerprint optically but uses capacitance as a sensor to sense "a finger"
  • WHy

    Bedros Demir
  • Cook should...

    Tim Cook and his husband should both contribute to this bounty. It will only help Apple in the long run.
    • Come out...

      Homophobic comment. How clever. rimpac99@: it's 2013, you can come out of the closet now. it's ok.
      • dogma...

        This is a tech site, take your political hate dogma elsewhere, nobody cares what you think. Get over your insecurity and you'll enjoy people's opinions, rather than hate and show anger towards them.
  • More public bounties

    I'd love to see more public bounties like this. Don't keep it to conferences like defcon ... let the corporations know that they're being targeted. Do everything in the open and make people pay attention to security.
  • I wonder if the key won't be 3D printing onto a thin latex membrane

    First, I know nothing about the tech behind Apple's finger print scanner. I'm guessing it is looking for subsurface artifacts as well as the fingerprint itself. That said, I would have to wonder if a hacker could lift a print and then, using 3D printer technology, they could print the pattern in 3D onto a thin latex membrane that they could then use to overlay their own finger. The key would be how deep the 5S scans the underlying skin and whether that is a part of the overall security. Placing a thin latex membrane over a living person's existing finger, however, might be enough to fool the security. (Isn't that a gag from one of the Mission Impossible films?)
    High Tech Troglodyte
    • The membrane would also need to be conductive

      Very clever, though. Good on ya!
    • you can

      Copy a touch by conducting it with staticdas you touch
    • You aren't going to be able to do that from a lifted print. You'll need to

      take a mold of the actual finger. And if someone is able to get a molding of your thumbprint, you have worse problems than your phone possibly being hacked.
  • Brill!

    I think this should be part funded by APPLwhat a sales pitch as long as it can't be hacked!
  • it takes engineering

    To hack these, but you can even hack retina scanner. Use of silicon required. All you have to do is "lift" their fingerprint, and mold it to the silicon and attach silicon onto your finger. Touch fingerprint scanner and profit
    • Not in this case. You'll have to make a mold of the finger

      out of a conductive material.
  • Where is law enforcement when we need it?

    These people are engaging in a criminal conspiracy to try and destroy the value of other people's property and enable theft. As long as we allow people to treat these crimes as games, we're never going to have electronic security.