Monday, October 21, 2013

Will the iPhone 5S Be The Catalyst to Fingerprint Scanners on All Our Devices?

A phone used to be a simple device you would make phone calls with. It could have your contact list, or even a log of recent contacts, but that was about it. The idea of security when it came to a mobile phone wasn’t high on many people’s priority lists.
However, now most of us carry smartphones around. These devices are capable of far more, including email, text, web browsing and more. It’s literally a small computer in your pocket, and the power of a modern smartphone is far more than a desktop computer from just over a decade ago. So, obviously security has become a big deal, since anyone with our phone could get access to a myriad of data about us.
We use passwords, PIN codes, gestures and encryption to try and protect our devices. Now, Apple is upping the stake with the first mass market smartphone with a fingerprint scanner built into it. The iPhone 5S has a home button that doubles as a thumb scan, not only to unlock the phone but also your iTunes account, and potentially other apps. Is it a step in the right direction, though? First, let’s see how the iPhone scanner works, and then think about what it may mean for the future of mobile devices, and security in general.
There are two types of fingerprint scanners in use today, toptical scanners and capacitance screens.
You can think of an optical scanner as a tiny camera with a built-in light. The LED will project a strong light on your fingertip, and then a black and white CCD camera will capture the light and shadows, to find out where the peaks and valleys are in the fingerprint itself. Then, an algorithm simply compares the result with what it has on file. It doesn’t store the actual image, instead just a list of intersection points, areas where those peaks and valleys converge. If enough match, then you have a pretty good chance the fingerprint is legit.

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