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Zeichick’s Take: Iris scan, please, and maybe some developer DNA



Alan Zeichick
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December 16, 2013 —  (Page 1 of 2)
Biometrics are essential to the long-term success of mobile computing. The obvious place is in security: Swipe your finger instead of typing a password. This is convenient—but worrisome.

Apple’s new iPhone 5s incorporates a fingerprint scanner. The phone’s Touch ID features have been receiving lots of news coverage because it’s from Apple, but it’s not the first fingerprint unlock, not by a long shot. My Motorola Atrix, released in early 2011, had a very effective fingerprint scanner. Laptops and other devices have had those as well for several years.

There are other ways of incorporating biometrics into mobile computing. Wearable bio sensors, like the Fitbit and the FuelBand, are hot holiday gift items: they can keep track of your pulse, sleep pattern, steps and more.

Right now, those devices are used primarily for fitness. But biometrics clearly are part of a multiphase security plan. Imagine having your unique heartbeat electrical pattern unlock your phone!

The best security schemes incorporate “something you have” with “something you know.”

My family has a safe deposit box at a local bank. Instead of asking a bank teller for access to the vault, we now walk over to the vault, place our palms on a reader, and tap out an access code number on a keypad. Click. We’re in. Biometrics.

Beyond fingerprints and handprints, iris scanners are real and growing in popularity, though I don’t believe there’s a mobile version yet. Movies like “Minority Report” and the upcoming “The Lost Symbol” demonstrate, albeit in grisly fashion, the scary downside of security biometrics without requiring an access code. Similarly, “The Dark Knight Rises” shows off an expensive loophole in fingerprint scanning.

There are a lot of privacy concerns regarding biometric data. Forget the gory details: Imagine a man-in-the-middle attack, or a straightforward hack or theft. What could someone use your biometric signature data for? As Gandalf would say, is it secret? Is it safe?

In “iPhone 5s: About Touch ID security,” Apple attempts to assure you that your data is both secret and safe:



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Comments


12/16/2013 11:50:31 AM EST

Excellent article, and another great testament to the growing popularity of using biometrics for mobile security. A quick note on your mention of retinal scanning...I think what you may have meant to say is iris scanning, not retinal scanning. Although both of these are indeed biometric modalities, iris scanning is much more practical for identifying mobile users and there are several companies close to releasing solutions that use iris scanning for personal ID on mobile devices. Although retinal scanning is used in limited capacities, iris is much more mainstream and practical and it should be noted that these are 2 completely separate biometric modalities.

United StatesJohn Trader


12/18/2013 11:50:49 AM EST

Yes, please do your homework when writing about biometrics. There are no retinal scanning technology in use. In fact the use of “scanning” is a misnomer all together. Digital images of the iris are used for identification. These are not scans but the same kind of digital images one captures with their camera. Which is why iris recognition has a great future with smart phones and other fixed and mobile devices that have embedded cameras.

United Statesmaxine most


12/18/2013 02:13:31 PM EST

My bad, folks — got caught up in Sci-Fi instead of technology. I did mean iris scanning.

United StatesAlan


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