Smartphone Fingerprint Password Protection, How Safe is It?

Tech Tips

Apple’s recent announcement regarding the addition of bio-metric security to the iPhone was met by the public with no small amount of incredulity, and it’s no surprise since the technology is still in its infancy. Android system phones and iPhone’s already have security with password protection programs, but some security experts say such protection isn’t enough. The phones may be locked up with a basic password and most apps on the phones also may be password protected.

Hand holding a smartphone, iPhone, showing a locked screen with a wrong entered password message

It only took a few days before a team of hackers was able to crack Apple’s fingerprint code, which is further evidence that relying upon the technology as a sole source of security on a phone would not be the best way to protect a smart phone. When the technology matures in the next decade, smart phone users might be able to rely upon bio-metrics, but that time is not here just yet. Some users might also have privacy concerns regarding the bio-metric technology. If Apple got its hands on the fingerprints of all iPhone users, what could it do with the information? And more importantly, could government agencies and law enforcement groups compel Apple to share that information?

Additionally, despite Apple’s big announcement regarding its “new” fingerprint technology, smart phones already have the capability to use bio-metric security. Facial recognition software that uses the camera to identify a person’s face has been available for some time. There are apps for Android users and for iPhone owners, and one of the advantages that the designers of these apps suggest is a huge selling point is the swiftness and ease of access offered by the app.


Experts aren’t completely sold on the technology, even though the idea of using bio-metrics is intriguing. Facial recognition has been used in spy movies for decades, but the technology available to the public today isn’t nearly as secure. There are reports that a person that looks very similar to the phone’s owner could unlock the phone because of the inexact science behind this type of programming. A thief likely could place a photograph in front of the phone’s camera and fool the system without too much trouble.

Basic encrypted password technology remains the safest way to keep a phone from being hacked. Incredibly, many smart phone users don’t bother with passwords at all on their phones because they feel the process is a hassle. Although a basic alphanumeric password won’t keep out all hackers (if someone really wants to get into the phone, there are always ways to hack it), it is a strong deterrent.

There are also some advanced security measures that require a person to draw a specific pattern on the front of the phone before it will unlock. Using this type of password option means that a hacker can’t rely upon finding a phone with a weak password or an unprotected system. Although a screen lock and password aren’t going to turn a smart phone into Fort Knox, the alphanumeric password will offer some measure of protection.

One of the reasons why people decide that they don’t need a password is that they feel a good password is easily forgotten and that writing it down somewhere defeats the entire purpose of the password. Some smart phone users also tend to feel that if there’s a password on the phone that it could be changed without the owner’s permission, and then the owner would have no choice but to erase all the contents on the phone to regain use of the device.

Despite these drawbacks, using a password on a smart phone makes a lot of sense, and it’s a good idea to use the fundamental alphanumeric password technology provided on the phone by the manufacturer. Although users will need to determine whether using bio-metric security options is appropriate, since those technologies are so incredibly new, even the use of a primary entry password for the phone is a good idea.

Smart phones today are essentially miniature computers that may store a wealth of information about a user and his or her personal information. Experts suggest that incredibly personal information shouldn’t be stored on a phone and that cloud technology or online storage is a better place to put sensitive data. In addition, experts also suggest choosing complex passwords that are changed every few months.

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