Instead of running to Apple to unlock iPhones involved in criminal case, cops may have found a new path to get past Touch ID’s security: 3D printing fingers.
Police officers asked for aid from the lab of professor Anil Jain at the University of Michigan this year to help them recreate a murder victim’s fingerprints by 3D printing each digit so they can attempt to unlock the device, which they think may contain clues that would help solve the case.
The Michigan police officers already had the victims prints on file, according to a report from Fusion that reveals the lab is still in the process of testing different metallic particles to add to make the prints more conductive.
Most 3D printed models aren’t conductive enough to activate fingerprint sensors like Touch ID that use tiny circuits to generate an image of the fingerprint. Professors at the lab plan to run tests on the fingers for a few more weeks before giving them over to law enforcement to use on the iPhone.
Police might be disappointed when they try to use the fingers though because Touch ID’s Secure Enclave is supposed to discard keys it retains after 48 hours or with 5 incorrect attempts.
iPhone security and privacy became a huge political issue earlier this year during the investigation of the San Bernardino terrorists iPhone 5c. Apple refused to help the FBI unlock the device and was then called before Congress to explain itself.
If the models from Dr. Jain’s lab work to unlock the iPhone it may be the first time a 3D printing finger was used to unlock a dead person’s phone, giving cops a new tool in the cat and mouse game of security.