Putting the finger on security

Toting around a smart phone with a replacement value of several hundred dollars is something most people do casually these days, with little thought about security.

For those who do, Samsung Electronics has followed Apple’s iPhone 5s by integrating a fingerprint reader into its latest Galaxy S5 device for improved protection over passwords.

However, Germany’s Security Research Labs says there’s a way to spoof a fingerprint on the Samsung device, just a way around the iPhone scanner has been discovered.

It isn’t perfect, which is one of the most troubling features – the S5 allows a hacker to try as many times as he or she wants. As outlined by ArsTechnica, SRL says the S5 simply by rebooting the device, a researcher was able to cause the handset to accept an unlimited number of incorrect swipes without requiring users to enter a password. More troubling still, the S5 fingerprint authenticator can be associated with sensitive banking or payment apps such as PayPal – gain control of the handset and you get access to the account.

In reply PayPal says integration with the fingerprint readers is designed to guard against hacks.

What we’re left with is the suspicion that a consumer-grade scanner for popular devices like smart phones is unlikely to meet real-world demands of users.

Perhaps this is just first-generation woes. On the other hand – no pun intended – a number of laptops used to include fingerprint scanners. Few do now, probably because users found them clumsy. There’s another reason: they aren’t useful.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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