by Al Sacco

iPhone 5S Touch ID is Feline Friendly

Sep 19, 20133 mins
iOSiPhoneMobile Security

Cats can apparently unlock Apple's new iPhone 5S using paw prints and Touch ID. Apple hasn't exactly been forthcoming with details about Touch ID security, and the feline unlock raises more questions, according to's Al Sacco.

This morning, TechCrunch posted a brief video of a feline unlocking an iPhone 5S using Touch ID. At least it looks that way. You never actually see the cat, only it’s paw. So the author technically could have severed the feline’s paw and unlocked the iPhone that way as part of some clever ruse to amass page views. But that seems extreme, even for TechCrunch.  

I’m kind of a cat lover, and I find the video amusing, but as one of the commenters on the post so succinctly put it, “Who gives a @#$%?”  

The video is notable – assuming it isn’t a joke, and I don’t think it is – because it suggests that you don’t have to use your fingers to unlock the device. In fact, it begs the question: Can you use anything that has a fine, “skin-like” pattern to record a Touch ID “print” and then unlock your iPhone 5S? The TechCrunch author says he was also able to use the heel of his palm and a random patch of skin near his elbow to unlock the device.

Earlier this week, I reached out to Apple PR with some very specific questions about how Touch ID actually works and about Touch ID security. For example, Apple told The Wall Street Journal that actual fingerprints aren’t stored within its new A7 chip, only fingerprint data. That would explain why fingerprints aren’t required to unlock the iPhone 5S. And though Apple said that data is encrypted on the chip, it didn’t mention any specifics about the encryption or whether it meets any industry standards for security.

I’m still waiting on a response from Apple. And frankly, I don’t really expect to hear back at this point. The almighty Wall Street Journal, I am not. And apparently I don’t warrant a response. (I love you too, Apple.)

But despite Apple’s claims that Touch ID will boost iPhone security, the whole system seems like more of a novelty to me than any sort of real security measure to be utilized by people or organizations that require true, enterprise-grade security. That said, Touch ID should boost security for the average individual, because it’s probably more secure than using a weak password and definitely more secure than using no password at all.

I also have a feeling the Internet will soon be hit with a deluge of videos featuring new iPhone 5S owners unlocking their devices in amusing (and possibly NSFW) ways. After all, the iPhone 5S goes on sale tomorrow.