CYBER SAFE: Unlocking your phone with your fingerprint or face... is it safe?

More than ever, we're unlocking our phones by scanning our fingerprint or glancing at its front-facing camera.

But have you ever wondered, are these digital blueprints of our bodies safe inside the technology we carry in our pockets?

For anyone who doesn't know, the trend is called biometric security.   The idea is to replace pesky passwords and passcodes with the physical features that make us unique, such as our fingerprint.

Fingerprint scanners have been commonplace in smartphones for many years now, but in the last 18 months, biometric security has far surpassed our fingertips.

The latest Samsung phones have an iris scanner that maps your eyes.  If you've ever seen Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," you know how cool and creepy this advancement is.

In the United Kingdom, consumers are testing "Fingopay" scanners, which read a map of the veins in your finger to authenticate a payment.

And perhaps most notably, Apple's new iPhone X features a TrueDepth camera system for the most intricate facial recognition we've seen in a consumer device.

Manufacturers say while your biometric data is stored inside the device, it is never transmitted for any purpose. As an example, Apple stores your fingerprint or facial map on the secure enclave of their processing chip, where it is protected from ever being accessed.

Cyber-security analyst Michael Osakwe with NextAdvisor says this is true, however, there are concerns.

"It seems pretty secure," said Osakwe. "Though I get that it can seem pretty suspicious."

Osakwe says in regards to "Face ID," the branded name for Apple's facial recognition system, the main worry lies not in the software, but in the TrueDepth camera system itself.

The TrueDepth camera system features an infrared camera, dot projector and flood illuminator, which could be accessed by third-party developers, or perhaps hackers.  Using this technology could provide hackers with an extremely accurate digital map of your face.

"While it's not the Face ID system, or the Face ID data itself, there are privacy concerns about essentially giving away parts of your face to third-party applications," said Osakwe.

In a year that has seen an alarming number of hacking victims from Equifax to Yahoo, digital privacy and protection has become more paramount.

While the most precious data stolen this year was credit card information and social security numbers, one could wonder, could fingerprints and facial data be susceptible in the years to come?

Experts such as Osakwe say the answer is still very unclear.

Consumers today can make the decision for themselves:  use biometric security on your phone and trust that your data is safe, or stick with the less invasive approach of passwords and passcodes.

The choice is up to you.


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