Woman 'Without' Fingerprints Can Use iPhone 5s' TouchID

Jessica's fingerprints are so faint that even the police can't get a good image of them. But the TouchID in Apple's new iPhone 5s can.

When Jessica (who prefers not to give her last name) worked as a real estate broker, her license was denied for 18 months because she couldn't provide fingerprints.

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Finally, the FBI signed a special form confirming that the ridges of the 29-year-old's fingerprints are too faint to get a good record.

That didn't stop the iPhone 5s from successfully reading her print and then unlocking the phone when she visited the Tom's Guide office in New York City.

So far, the iPhone 5s' much-vaunted fingerprint scanner, which is built into the home button and is said to scan the "sub-epidermal skin layers" of a person's finger, has even successfully scanned a cat's paw and then unlocked, as shown by TechCrunch writer Darrel Etherington.

In these cases, both Jessica and the cat were registered as TouchID users for the phones they unlocked. So far, no one's been able to unlock an iPhone 5s by lifting the registered owner's fingerprint CSI-style and using it on the scanner.

That doesn't mean people aren't trying.

How good is the iPhone 5s' TouchID?

Almost immediately after the iPhone 5s came out, a group of digital security experts set up IsTouchIDHackedYet.com, which promised a pool of cash, booze, Bitcoins and at least one erotic book to whoever was first able to "reliably and repeatedly break into an iPhone 5s by lifting prints."

One of the contest's organizers, Washington D.C.-based security researcher Nick de Petrillo, scanned his penis with TouchID and then used it to unlock his phone. He announced his success on Twitter on Saturday (Sept. 21) and fellow security researcher Andrew Ruef replied "Now no one will ever, ever steal your phone. [Is this] the secret to the correct use of TouchID?"

On Sunday, (Sept. 22), the "No!" on IsTouchIDHackedYet.com switched to a "Maybe!" when a German hacking group called Chaos Computer Club, or CCC, put up a video claiming they'd successfully hacked an iPhone 5s using a fingerprint made from superglue.

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The video shows a CCC member known as Starbug registering his fingerprint on an iPhone 5s, then locking it again and using an impression of his fingerprint made in superglue to unlock the phone.

"This demonstrates — again — that fingerprint biometrics is unsuitable as access control method and should be avoided," CCC wrote on its website.

On Monday, (Sept. 23) they switched the "Maybe!" to a "Yes!" after CCC proved they could lift a print from a surface and use it to unlock the phone, as opposed to taking a print directly from a finger.

CCC may have won the prize, but it's probably safe to say that their hack won't work on Jessica.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.