Smartphone Makers Must Balance Safety and Security with Fingerprint Sensors

smartphone-569076_1280Phone manufacturers want to give users the most convenient, most secure methods to operate their phones, which is why companies like Apple and Samsung have integrated fingerprinting sensors into mobile devices. While the biometric technology makes purchasing and accessing phone functions easier, it does not necessarily make the devices as secure as passcodes do- at least when it comes to the intervention of law enforcement.

With a warrant, police can forcibly obtain information on an individual’s phone by making them press their fingerprint to the sensor, which they cannot do with a passcode due to the Fifth Amendment. Additionally, a passcode is encrypted and sends a message between the processor and the software, meaning the only way to break it is by guessing every combination of digits or letters until it is cracked. Fingerprints, on the other hand, can be “stolen;” creating fake fingerprints with a rubber finger and a print pulled off a surface is a possibility, however, convoluted. There are some tradeoffs of security for convenience in these devices, including the use of the camera without a password, but Apple and other companies are working their hardest to develop safe and user-friendly interfaces for consumers.