Yesterday I received an email from a reader who, despite wanting an iPhone 5s, decided she wasn't going to get it after seeing an article about Touch ID being "hacked" and deciding it wasn't safe. I heard from another reader who saw a similar article and so decided to turn off Touch ID. Not replace it with a strong password, mind you, but simply turn it off and go back to nothing. They were by no means the only people who've been confused, misinformed, and ultimately hurt by the nonsense that's passing for technology reporting when it comes to iOS 7 and the iPhone 5s. It's some of the dumbest I've ever seen, and it's in an area that's so important it demands the least amount of dumb journalistically possible. Here's the truth about iOS 7, the iPhone 5s, and Touch ID:
- Convenience and security sit at opposite ends of the spectrum. The more convenient something is, the less secure, and vice versa. You can't have both.
- iOS 7 contains a lot of new features to increase convenience or security. It's up to us, the users, to choose which one is more important to us at any given time.
- Conveniences like Lock screen access for Siri and Control Center are easy to turn off.
- Security in the form of long, pseudo random passwords are easy to turn on.
Here are some examples of the convenience vs. security spectrum:
- Unlocked iPhone can be accesses by anyone, at any time, put in Airplane Mode, used to play Candy Crush, whatever.
- iPhone with Siri and Control Center accessible from the Lock Screen but protected by Passcode can be put in Airplane Mode, but can only be accessed by someone with the time and inclination to spy or otherwise ferret out your 4 digit code.
- iPhone with Siri and Control Center accessible from the Lock Screen but protected by Touch ID can be put in Airplane Mode, but can only be accessed by someone with the skill and determination to make a workable fake fingerprint.
- iPhone with Siri and Control Center disabled from the Lock Screen and protected by Touch ID or a Passcode can't be put in Airplane Mode but can be accessed by anyone who can make a fake fingerprint or spy out the Passcode. (It can still be put into a radio-proof container or room, or simply shut off until it can be placed in one.)
- iPhone with Siri and Control Center disabled from the Lock Screen and protected by a long, strong, pseudo-random password can't be put in Airplane Mode but can be accessed by anyone who can trick, intimidate, extort, or otherwise socially engineer the password.
- Any of the above kept in a lock box, safe, vault, etc. would require the container be accessed before the device.
Since most people aren't high level threats, and since the iPhone is a consumer electronics device, Apple start off towards the convenience end of the spectrum. Siri and Control Center access from the Lock screen are turned on, and a 4-digit Passcode as default rather than a complex alphanumeric password. Anyone who wants more security can turn off that access and ramp up that password. It'll make their iPhone far less convenient, but it'll also make it far more secure.
But never forget this: If you have an iPhone, someone, somehow, can gain access to it if what's on it is valuable enough and they want that access badly enough. The only real way to protect something is not to have it.
If you're considering an iPhone 5s, don't let nonsense non-stories deter you. If you've already got one, don't get fooled into turning off features that, overall, provide a good balance of convenience and security. If you're concerned about security, get your phone, and enable the features that let you do what you need to do as securely as possible.
Then go back to the dumbass sites that mindlessly propagate this kind of stupid and demand better from them. Or just block them and hang out here on iMore.
Either way, they'll go where your clicks/taps are.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.