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Here's How One Clever 7-Year-Old Unlocked His Father's TouchID-Enabled iPhone 6


“This is a really serious problem."

A customer configures the fingerprint scanner technology built into iPhone 5S at an Apple store in Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Apple released the iPhone 5S and 5C models on Friday. (Photo: AP/Andy Wong)

The only person who can unlock Matthew Green's TouchID-enabled iPhone 6 Plus is Matthew Green – and apparently his 7-year-old son.

Green, a cryptography and computer security professor at Johns Hopkins University, woke up early Tuesday morning to his son, Harrison, lifting his right hand and using his own thumb to unlock his smartphone.

Image source: KTVI-TV Image source: KTVI-TV

While Harrison might have had some answering to do, his pre-dawn expedition into his parents' bedroom and into his dad's phone highlighted some serious privacy concerns with biometric passwords.

“This is a really serious problem. In a situation where you’re under arrest, biometrics are not very good [at protecting your information]," Green said.

A federal judge in Virginia ruled in October that because biometric passwords, like Apple's TouchID, is “is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample,” law enforcement officers can legally use your fingerprint without your consent to unlock your phone.

While police can get into your phone with your fingerprint they cannot legally access your data if you opt to use a passcode instead. The federal judge in Virginia said such passwords are considered "knowledge" and thus are protected under the Fifth Amendment.

As for Green, a technology guru who has studied the NSA spying scandal, encryption methods and computer security, he'll probably be treating this new "privacy threat" much differently.


Follow Jon Street (@JonStreet) on Twitter

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