Apple has announced having sold record-breaking nine million new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C since the Friday launch, while a German hacking group has successfully cracked the gadget’s high-tech security feature.
The iPhone 5S’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner, believed to become one of the key features distinguishing it from its competitors, has been cracked in less than two days since the gadget’s release by a German hacking group, known as the Chaos Computing Club, or CCC.
The group posted a video on its website, showing a penetrator accessing an iPhone 5S with an artificial fingerprint. The website further describes how members of its biometrics team had cracked the new fingerprint reader.
The group said they targeted Touch ID to knock down reports about its "marvels," which suggested it would be difficult to crack.
"Fingerprints should not be used to secure anything. You leave them everywhere, and it is far too easy to make fake fingers out of lifted prints," a hacker named Starbug was quoted as saying on the CCC's site.
The group said it defeated Touch ID by photographing the fingerprint of an iPhone's user, then printing it on to a transparent sheet, which it used to create a mould for a "fake finger."
Industry insiders said the group has achieved “a complete break” of the Touch ID security. "It certainly opens up a new possibility for attackers," said Charlie Miller, co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook.
According to the CCC, similar processes have been used to crack "the vast majority" of fingerprint sensors on the market.
"I think it's legit," said Dino Dai Zovi," another co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook. "The CCC doesn't fool around or over-hype, especially when they are trying to make a political point."
Touch ID was only introduced on top-of-the-line iPhone 5S. It allows users to unlock their devices or make purchases on iTunes by simply pressing their finger on the home button. It uses a sapphire crystal sensor embedded in the button.
Data used for verification is encrypted and stored in a secure enclave of the phone's A7 processor chip.
Earlier, two security experts have invited hackers worldwide to step forward and breach iPhone 5S’s security. Robert Graham and Nick DePetrillo set up a website and offered an initial prize of $200, inviting others to contribute more money that would be eventually awarded to the successful hacking team.
Until now, more than $13,000 has been collected, which now should be awarded to the CCC group. "We are simply awaiting a full video documentation and walk through of the process that they have claimed," said Nick DePetrillo. "When they deliver that video we will review it."
However, Apple seems undisturbed by the revelation as the launch of the new iPhone has proven to be an unprecedented success.
“This is our best iPhone launch yet―more than nine million new iPhones sold―a new record for first weekend sales,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and while we’ve sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5S, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone,” he said.
The more expensive iPhone 5S features, apart from the controversial fingerprint scanner, an Apple-designed A7 64-bit chip and an all-new 8 megapixel iSight camera with True Tone flash. It’s also thinner and lighter than its predecessors.
It runs the newly launched iOS 7 smartphone software, said to be the most significant iOS update since the original iPhone entered the market.
However, the iOS 7 software has also come under scrutiny over the weekend, only a couple of days after its release, after hackers claimed they had managed to access people’s personal data on iPhones due to a security bug.
The flaw means that the phone's lockscreen can be bypassed, meaning that texts, emails and photos can be accessed along with users' Twitter and Facebook accounts. The issue was only a problem with the iPhone 4S and 5 handsets.
"Apple takes user security very seriously,” said the company’s spokesman. "We are aware of this issue, and will deliver a fix in a future software update."
The new look operating system had already got off to a rocky start as users complained about difficulties downloading it.