Putting Your Best Finger Forward: You are Your Password with Apple’s new Biometric Technology

With the release of the new iPhone 5s and iOS 7 software, Apple is making headlines around a number of new features including a huge upgrade to its security offerings. The updates have a lot of people talking about how Apple fits into the mobile device safety conversation and how this could be a game-changer when it comes to fingerprint scanning technologies for mobile.

Fingerprint ID technology opens a number of doors but also raises several questions about how safe and user-friendly this new technology will be. Let’s take a look at the new Touch ID, what it does, how it works, and some pros and cons to relying on it for securing your phone.

  • Don’t let your thumb have all the fun. You have the option to save multiple fingerprints to the iPhone 5s Touch ID chip. This can be convenient if you need to use other fingers to unlock your phone, say if one hand is full
  • Will I no longer need a passcode? While Touch ID is meant to “minimize” the use of your passcode, according to Apple, it does not eliminate it. A passcode is still necessary for additional security validation, such as enrolling new fingerprints, and signing into your phone should you need to restart or reboot.
  • Use Touch ID for more than unlocking your phone. You can also make purchases on iTunes, the Apple App Store and the iBooks Store with your fingerprint. Possibly in the future, new technologies could arise that would allow you to make purchases via other apps.
  • Adjust the settings of your Touch ID. You can select which individual functions are accessed through the scanning chip in your phone’s home button. You can set it to only unlock your phone, only approve iTunes purchases, or do both.
  • Is my fingerprint stored and shared on some secret database? No, Apple has been very clear that the print you scan stays on the Touch ID chip and goes nowhere else.

 

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And while Touch ID shows a growing sensibility on the part of Apple toward the need for stronger protection of mobile devices, Apple has also unleashed a number of software upgrades with the release of iOS 7 to protect users from the growing threat of mobile malware. Additional updates include: privacy controls on web searching and third-party app permissions, password management through iCloud, and restricting automatic access to your phone’s data when you plug into a laptop or computer for power.

Right now though, biometrics is the hot topic, with a number of companies trying to incorporate features such as voice recognition, fingerprint scanning and more into new technologies. Touch ID isn’t foolproof, yet so far, people are clamoring to get their finger on the new technology. Even with all of these new features, however, you should still exercise the following general precautions to protect your mobile device:

  • Lock your device. Even if you aren’t the lucky owner of a new iPhone 5s, most smartphones offer the option of a PIN code. You’ll definitely appreciate the added protection should your phone ever fall into the wrong hands.
  • Regularly change and update passcodes. One benefit of Touch ID is that cybercriminals can no longer access your phone by snooping over your shoulder hoping to glimpse a passcode as you enter it. However, if you own an older model iPhone or Android device, be sure you change passcodes frequently to lessen the chances of anyone gaining access to your device if lost or stolen.
  • Limit the access of your third-party apps. Many shady app creators try to obtain information they do not need by pulling more data not necessary for the app to function from your phone. Under Settings you can view and grant/restrict which apps use your location, camera, microphone or other data and which can have access to your social networks.
  • Only download apps from official sources. Third-party app stores and websites can be a breeding ground for risky apps and malware. Stick to downloading apps from trusted online sources, such as the Apple App Store, that have protocols in place to ensure the apps they sell don’t contain anything malicious.
  • Do not log into apps that hold sensitive data while you’re using public Wi-Fi. You are practically handing over your sensitive data to a cyber snoop you who may be nearby. Many hackers set up shop in coffee houses, libraries and other public areas just waiting for an the unsuspecting to sign onto the shared Wi-Fi.
  • Always install app updates as they’re made available. Many address known bugs and apply patches to security holes. The iPhone 5s and iOS 7 update offer a background-downloading feature, new to Apple, to enable auto-updates.

Get in touch with your mobile phone security needs. Learn about the latest mobile security updates and threats, by following our team on Twitter at @McAfeeConsumer or Like us on Facebook.

 

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