Editor's Note: This content was originally published on
by Jim Probasco.
After much research, it appears that you cannot unlock an
) iPhone 5S with a dead digit.
Yes, this was actually studied.
If someone threatens to cut off one of your fingers and use it to
unlock your iPhone, they obviously have not read Mary Branscombe's
. In the piece, she said that the fingerprint sensor in the 5S
"only works on a live finger, not one that's been severed from your
spoke with an expert at Validity Sensors in California who said,
"The [RF capacitive sensor] technology is built in a way that the
[fingerprint] image has to be taken from a live finger."
Unfortunately, if the point of the threat is to get you to unlock
your phone, the fact that it won't work is probably moot. Chances
are you would gladly unlock your phone in exchange for being able
to pursue your dream of becoming a world famous (and ten-fingered)
The specter of having a finger (or two) lopped off and used to
circumvent Apple's new security system even resulted in a
column suggesting you might want to consider using the index finger
of your non-dominant hand to unlock your phone since that is the
one you would likely least miss in the event of a forced
The whole "unlock your phone or I will chop off your finger" threat
theme is probably overblown. What matters more than that is whether
it's possible to circumvent Touch ID through any means. In other
words, is Apple's new security system secure?
Compared with somebody looking over your shoulder and making note
of your four-digit passcode, fingerprints are infinitely more
secure, according to
. While fingerprints are easy to copy, Apple's system, which
utilizes technology that looks through the outer layers of skin to
an inner "live" layer, eliminates the possibility of simply
replicating the fingerprint pattern according to the company.
All that said,
concluded that Touch ID is a work-in-progress. A more secure system
would be one that combines both biometrics and a passcode. That, of
course, defeats the main advantage of Touch ID, which is
For now, consumers contemplating the purchase of an Apple iPhone 5S
probably don't need to keep their hands in their pockets or wear
chainmail gloves for protection. At the end of the day, Touch ID
will not likely result in an increase in criminal finger
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