Apple patent points to iCloud-based Touch ID syncing, fingerprint-protected Apple Pay terminals

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2015
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application for an iCloud-based fingerprint storage and cross-device syncing solution, a system that could do away with manual Touch ID setup and power next-generation Apple Pay-enabled POS terminals.


Source: USPTO


As described in Apple's patent application for "Finger biometric sensor data synchronization via a cloud computing device and related methods," fingerprint data may be collected on a first primary device, then uploaded to iCloud for dissemination to secondary devices.

For safety reasons, the invention calls for a commingling of user fingerprint and account verification data, the latter consisting of a unique identifier like an Apple ID and passcode combination.

During initial iPhone setup, for example, iOS may instruct an owner to validate their Apple ID account information before enrolling a fingerprint via Touch ID. The gathered data is then encrypted and uploaded to iCloud. The process may be reversed depending on the implementation, but linking of biometric and account verification data is mandatory.

From there, iCloud can send user-specific data to a second iOS device, such as an iPad, to validate and execute various system operations. To make this work, Apple's system collects a "to-be matched" fingerprint from the second device's Touch ID module, as well as to-be matched account verification data. In one embodiment, downloading of the enrollment fingerprint is contingent on successfully matching both sets of data with the originals stored on iCloud.


Illustration showing multiple registered fingerprints/users per device.


Matching can take place on the original device, second device or in the cloud. Further, the first device may send a digital key to the second device for use in encrypting to-be matched data, which is then bounced back for processing.

Alternatively, two devices can connect and transfer biometric data over local wireless links, like NFC or Bluetooth, using the same key-based encryption. This method is more secure than using iCloud, the Internet and public wireless access points. Apple points out that ad-hoc connections also skirt governmental restrictions against sharing personal biometric data over shared computing networks.

Applied to a real life scenario, the patent describes an interesting use case involving mobile-based purchases much like the touchless Apple Pay digital wallet found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In this scenario, the second device in the system would be a point of sale terminal equipped with a touchscreen, speaker and fingerprint sensor.




A user's biometric data is sensed and matched in a process similar to previously discussed embodiments, then used to validate a purchase. The document failed to go into detail, but the method would presumably be triggered from a user device through NFC or other secure protocol. As noted, the POS terminal may not need to download a user's actual fingerprint, instead sending its own to-be matched biometric data to iCloud or a user's iPhone for processing.

While convenient, Apple is unlikely to employ such a system before figuring out security holes inherent in wireless computing and cloud storage services. The proposition of storing something as personal as a fingerprint in the cloud is still unnerving, and only made worse by recent high-profile hacks that included an iCloud security breach.

Apple's iCloud-based Touch ID verification system was first filed for in July 2013 and credits former AuthenTec CTO Greg Kerr as its inventor. Apple purchased AuthenTec in 2012 for $356 million, later branding the biometric security firm's technology as Touch ID in the iPhone 5s. Kerr left Apple in February 2013 after helping AuthenTec's engineering teams transition over.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Cool. But I still prefer TouchID stored locally. Btw, AuthenTec acquisition is the most important one in a decade. At $356 million, it worths every penny. Until now, no competitor can even catch up with Apple on this.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    This patent is scary in the sense that it would weaken the security of Touch ID. The US government would immediately force Appe to secretly share ALL biometric data with it. Apple would have to comply due to national security. The patent shows Apple would have the ability to decrypt biometric data using a key. Apple would know the iPhone's and associated Apple ID accounts the biometric data belonged to. Apple would know the stuff it has repeatedly stated it did not want to know. Scary.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,209moderator
    They should never create a single point of failure for hundreds of millions of people. The devices can easily be placed in close proximity so that data can be synced directly from one device to another. But the very idea that the data can be read and written externally is contrary to the whole point of the secure enclave. The data should go from the button to the enclave and that's it with no software reading it or writing it. It might be a pain to keep setting it up but that's the price of security and it only takes a few minutes tops anyway. Still far less than thinking up a password and having to enter it every time.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    xixoxixo Posts: 417member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post



    They should never create a single point of failure for hundreds of millions of people. The devices can easily be placed in close proximity so that data can be synced directly from one device to another. But the very idea that the data can be read and written externally is contrary to the whole point of the secure enclave. The data should go from the button to the enclave and that's it with no software reading it or writing it. It might be a pain to keep setting it up but that's the price of security and it only takes a few minutes tops anyway. Still far less than thinking up a password and having to enter it every time.



    maybe they're patenting this so nobody will use it for evil, only good....?

     

    /s

  • Reply 5 of 19
    irelandireland Posts: 17,548member
    One thing for sure is AuthenTec was one of the best acquisitions Apple has ever made.
  • Reply 6 of 19
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    fallenjt wrote: »
    Cool. But I still prefer TouchID stored locally. Btw, AuthenTec acquisition is the most important one in a decade. At $356 million, it worths every penny. Until now, no competitor can even catch up with Apple on this.

    Indeed.

    I actually feel more confident about 23andme storing DNA for research purposes, than I would ever feel about storing individual biometrics in the cloud as an authentication mechanism. What happens if you lose the limb that biometric is associated with?

    Like, I'm going to sound really old, but even if insurance companies could discriminate against you by having your DNA information, it's far more valuable to know what you have, or might be predisposed to, so you can prepare for "if it happens" than finding out later that your insurance company is going to screw you anyway.

    Storing authentication in the cloud is just a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up and screw everyone. Like right now I'm not particularly fond of the idea of letting Apple or Microsoft be able to unlock my machine using a cloud account they can access. Find My Computer/Tablet/Phone, sure. Remotely search it without a warrant, what are you thinking?

    Hence biometrics need to be a two-factor authentication, not a single one. For your Computer to be remotely unlocked, your computer should wait for a remote biometric verification, and then still ask for the password. For a locally accessed device, a biometric-alone might be enough to prevent some of the most stupid forms of password management (eg call centers with 52 flavors of password entry) that can be replaced with just the biometric password, but still require a single password to verify that it's you not under duress, or someone having hacked off your fingers.

    I'm still fond of the idea of duress passwords that you could enter to tell the machine to silently self-destruct.
  • Reply 7 of 19
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Wasn't one of the bullet points of Touch ID in the beginning that it was NEVER stored on Apple's servers? That it never leaves the secure enclave, period?

  • Reply 8 of 19
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Misa View Post





     What happens if you lose the limb that biometric is associated with?

     

    Jesus. Do people still really not understand that Touch ID has nothing to do with security? 

     

    Your Passcode is your security. Touch ID is a convenience that allows you a way around having to enter your passcode.

     

    Touch ID will probably never exist on its own, without a backup passcode. Probably not in our lifetimes.

  • Reply 9 of 19
    irelandireland Posts: 17,548member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

    Wasn't one of the bullet points of Touch ID in the beginning that it was NEVER stored on Apple's servers? That it never leaves the secure enclave, period?




    Because it's a feature. If this ever sees the light of day it'll be optional.

  • Reply 10 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,150member
    Apple Patent Filings ... AKA Samsung's R & D Department.
  • Reply 11 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,150member
    pmz wrote: »
    Jesus. Do people still really not understand that Touch ID has nothing to do with security? 

    Your Passcode is your security. Touch ID is a convenience that allows you a way around having to enter your passcode.

    Touch ID will probably never exist on its own, without a backup passcode. Probably not in our lifetimes.

    But ... but ... I can't type with my left hand ... :D
  • Reply 12 of 19
    I get so tired of hearing there was an iCloud security breach. It was one person's unsecured account that was hacked. That's their fault, not Apples. Apple gives us the tools to protect ourselves. WE must pull the trigger.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    ireland wrote: »

    Because it's a feature. If this ever sees the light of day it'll be optional.

    For security reasons I can't imagine that my fingerprint hash will ever be synced and stored via iCloud.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    solipsismy wrote: »
    For security reasons I can't imagine that my fingerprint hash will ever be synced and stored via iCloud.

    Hopefully this is a patent that will never be implemented.
  • Reply 15 of 19
    Hopefully this is a patent that will never be implemented.

    Should we consider that Apple created this patent for something other than a consumer product? For example, what if Apple decided that they want to implement a sign-in and verification system for their new HQ that uses a fingerprint biometric across various areas. The only way this would be feasible, would for it to work like an authentication server which is centralized so that each station is independent.

    Or…

    Going back to an idea I had years ago about the making the living room more intelligent, Apple could use biometrics in each BT remote control so that when the remote control is picked up, if the remote detects a new user (or rather the remote sends the data to the Apple TV for processing) then the UI, shows recorded, saved positions, favourite shows, suggestions, etc. is altered to match that user's preferences. This, being solely a convenience feature, could be backed up to iCloud so that if you were were to get a new Apple TV or have multiple Apple TVs it would be little more than a tap with your iPhone to setup and configure.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    solipsismy wrote: »
    Should we consider that Apple created this patent for something other than a consumer product? For example, what if Apple decided that they want to implement a sign-in and verification system for their new HQ that uses a fingerprint biometric across various areas. The only way this would be feasible, would for it to work like an authentication server which is centralized so that each station is independent.

    Or…

    Going back to an idea I had years ago about the making the living room more intelligent, Apple could use biometrics in each BT remote control so that when the remote control is picked up, if the remote detects a new user (or rather the remote sends the data to the Apple TV for processing) then the UI, shows recorded, saved positions, favourite shows, suggestions, etc. is altered to match that user's preferences. This, being solely a convenience feature, could be backed up to iCloud so that if you were were to get a new Apple TV or have multiple Apple TVs it would be little more than a tap with your iPhone to setup and configure.

    Possibly for use in corporate or government on-site situations?
  • Reply 17 of 19
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,611member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by fallenjt View Post



    Cool. But I still prefer TouchID stored locally. Btw, AuthenTec acquisition is the most important one in a decade. At $356 million, it worths every penny. Until now, no competitor can even catch up with Apple on this.



    Agree. The fingerprint file should never ever leave the secure enclave of the phone, much less be trafficked in the cloud where who knows? some enterprising smart fellow might snatch it and steal your verified digital identity.

  • Reply 18 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

    Jesus. Do people still really not understand that Touch ID has nothing to do with security? 

     

    Your Passcode is your security. Touch ID is a convenience that allows you a way around having to enter your passcode.

     

    Touch ID will probably never exist on its own, without a backup passcode. Probably not in our lifetimes.


     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

    Wasn't one of the bullet points of Touch ID in the beginning that it was NEVER stored on Apple's servers? That it never leaves the secure enclave, period?


     

    Never say Never;-)

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    One thing for sure is AuthenTec was one of the best acquisitions Apple has ever made.

     

    So... ever thought of AuthenTec /TouchID as a 'product'? 

     

    I see the next turn of the secure transaction, after Apple has sold it's 150Million watches, is to make it ubiquituous at every point of authentication (not just sale).

    every device in the world has a TouchID button 

    HOWEVER, it is only sent via NFC/Bluetooth to a device very local to it.

     

    If the hash unlocks the secure enclave, magic ensues.

    (Phone never leaves the pocket).  

     

    Point of Sale;

    Fingerprint Door Locks

    Fingerprint preferences (think car)

     

    Apple/AuthenTec sells the TouchID technology to hash the fingerprint, however, retains the internal secret sauce of the enclave.

    The only issue I see is how stop 'replay' attacks [you are still in the coffee shop, and a malicious actor replays the transmission to buy more stuff... or worse uses it to gain access someplace else while you are within range of the local device [a 3 way transaction] (the hash has to prevent replay attacks in the HW...  salting with geoinfo and timestamping built into the sensor, so the 'raw' print can't be captured by 'listening' to the transmission)

  • Reply 19 of 19
    ireland wrote: »
    One thing for sure is AuthenTec was one of the best acquisitions Apple has ever made.

    Indeed.

    In yonder days, Apple made good acquisitions. Would that they still did. One can but sit and hope.
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