These People Really Want Someone To Hack The New iPhone

Sep 19, 2013
Originally published on September 19, 2013 8:40 pm

The new iPhone 5s makes its debut Friday, but already a group of hackers has put a bounty on its head.

The website is offering a reward of more than $14,000 (so far), a couple of off-color books and some bottles of booze to anyone who proves he can hack into Apple's new fingerprint ID system. The challenge: Lift a fingerprint from a beer glass or some other surface and use it to trick the phone into unlocking.

Apple's Touch ID system scans an iPhone 5s user's fingerprint to unlock the device instead of entering a code.

It's important to note that hacking off someone's finger to hack into his iPhone won't qualify anyone for the this prize. The reward only goes to someone who gets into an iPhone by lifting a fingerprint off another surface.

The idea for the bounty grew out of an online argument between Nick DePetrillo and Don Bailey about whether a hack of Apple's Touch ID system was even possible.

Many tech companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Facebook and Google offer hackers bounties or cash rewards for finding security flaws in their products and responsibly disclosing the hack so the companies can make a fix.

Apple has never played that game. So white-hat hackers have taken matters into their own hands, organizing contests like Pwn2Own to demonstrate security flaws in Apple products and offer their own rewards.

Ultimately, hackers say that by publicly disclosing the flaws in Apple products they force the company to make their devices more secure. (NPR offered Apple a chance to comment, but the company did not get back to us.)

The group is still accepting donations and hoping the pot will continue to grow until someone can successfully hack Apple's new hardware.

"Who wouldn't want to give someone a few bucks to hack something really interesting?" Bailey asked.

Bailey, who helped organize the informal contest, is also a competitor and says he is already working on a couple of different ideas that he thinks could let someone break open the new iPhone with a lifted print.

"Regardless of the outcome, our goal is to draw attention to hardware security issues which are often overlooked," he said.

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