Opinion | Greedy for user data, government can’t keep its hand out of Apple’s cookie jar
Nicole's Two Cents
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 13:10
If you haven’t read Apple’s discussion boards lately about the new biometric finger print element of the new iPhone 5S, prepare for a couple laughs.
One user asked in a discussion board, “Will NSA get my fingerprints with the new iPhone 5S? I am very reluctant to purchase that phone, and I’m not being facetious.”
A user responded back to the question rather satirically, “Then don't if you are that paranoid. Don't purchase any phone at all, because the NSA can track you should they want to. While you're at it, get rid of all your electronic equipment because it can be used to spy on you. Your best bet is to go live in a cave with no electricity, or running water (you DO know that the NSA adds an energy field to the water supply that saps "your precious bodily fluids", don't you?)”
As laughable as that response is, it does unfortunately have some bit of truth intertwined within it’s sarcasm. Don’t worry though — no need to throw out your entire electronics collection as suggested by Apple user number two.
However the government may have its hand in the Apple cookie jar, digging around for user data.
Infamous Edward Snowden, an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the National Security Agency (NSA), exposed top-secret NSA documents in July to the Guardian, a British national daily newspaper. These documents revealed the existence of a NSA program called PRISM, which showed the NSA had direct access to user data through tech giants such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Apple. Of course all parties involved denied such ties to Prism, including Apple saying in a June statement “they have never even heard of PRISM.”
Whether or not you believe the documents and top-secret NSA slides that showed who NSA’s current providers are, including Apple, are in deed 100 percent true, it has users taking a step back and for once and actually contemplating about the future of technology and what is happening with their data.
The new finger print scanner on Apple’s iPhone 5S received more than enough criticism from users, prompting Apple to direct worried users to their to support page about the new feature, which explains exactly where fingerprints are stored.
There is some good news for weary Apple users. Your fingerprint is not stored in some sort of secret database in Apple (for now) and it is not stored in iCloud where other apps, iOS users and Apple Servers can access it. The fingerprint, which is actually just a mathematical representation of your actual fingerprint, is stored on a new security feature called the A7 processor Chip within the phone.
According to Apple’s support page, “The Secure Enclave is walled off from the rest of A7 and as well as the rest of iOS. Therefore, your fingerprint data is never accessed by iOS or other apps, never stored on Apple servers, and never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else. Only Touch ID uses it and it can't be used to match against other fingerprint databases.”
Executive Director of Opens Rights Groups in Britain Jim Killock explained to iPhone users in a CNN editorial the compromises of biometric fingerprints and why they are not a completely full proof security feature.
“Apple's fingerprint system may encounter a simple problem, in that the key to unlocking your phone -- your fingerprint -- could well be liberally scattered across the phone you are trying to protect. While the phone may also look for body heat, or skin irregularities, there is at least a distinct path, which could be used to try to break into a phone. We'll have to see if anyone can use it successfully.”
Too bad the iPhone fingerprint feature has already been hacked by Germany's Chaos Computer Club two days after the phone went on sale worldwide. They accomplished this by lifting a fingerprint and then creating a fake one by putting it onto thin film and then using it to unlock the phone.