PC Doctor January 25, 2019

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Dear PC Doctor:

I have an iPhone and many apps have the option of using my fingerprint to login instead of a password. Can you tell me more about this? How does it work?

Thanks for your help!



Dear R:

iPhone uses “Touch ID” to recognize your fingerprint. Its sensor creates what functions as a high-quality image of your fingerprint. Each time you scan your finger, the print image data is compared. If they match, you get into the app (or are authorized to make the purchase, etc.). The effect is cumulative in that each time you scan your finger with Touch ID, it takes in more information to create a more complete image, making it work better (more easily) each time.

There is appeal in using your fingerprint to access apps and files: your fingerprint can’t be guessed by a thief, in anything other than extreme circumstances, you’ll always have your fingers with you, and you won’t have to memorize anything. To use your fingerprint, of course, your hands will need to be clean and dry, and you’ll need to take off your gloves.

However, Apple still requires a traditional passcode, even if you choose to use Touch ID. There are a few circumstances in which your fingerprint can’t be used: You actually have to set up a passcode before you can set up your Touch ID. If your fingerprint fails to read 5 times in a row, or if you haven’t unlocked your device for 48 hours, you’ll have to enter that passcode to get in. there are more details on the Apple website.

If a nefarious someone gains access to your print, it’s harder to recover from than if they’ve stolen your PIN or password. Humans aren’t able to change their fingerprints. If yours is breached, that form of identification is vulnerable for the rest of your life. You can’t just change your PIN and get new account numbers.

According to support.apple.com, your fingerprint data is encrypted, isn’t stored truly as an image but, rather, a mathematical representation, and is never backed up to the cloud.

If you are a person who would enjoy the simplicity of using a tap to get into your device and apps, Touch ID may be the way to go. If you were hoping you’d never need to remember a password again, Touch ID does not make that possible.

I hope this helps!
Until next time,
Happy computing!

PC Doctor