FBI: we use dead people's fingers to unlock iPhones, but Face ID not cracked yet

If you have been wondering about the legal implications of unlocking a dead person's iPhone, it seems that there are none, at least as far as law enforcement is concerned. The fingers of a deceased victim are fair game when it comes to Touch ID, says FBI forensics specialist Bob Moledor in an interview, though Face ID on the iPhone X is currently presenting problems, not least because the eyes need to be open.

Not that you would care about the authorities unlocking your phone when you are dead, but the story about the first recorded case of the police trying to unlock a culprit's handset with his fingerprints after his death, is a fascinating enough legal gray area. This trailblazing culprit in question is none other than Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the ISIS-inspired attacker who rammed his vehicle into people near Ohio State University, then got on a knifing run before he got shot dead, back in November 2016. 

Mr Moledor said that they applied his fingertip to the Touch ID sensor on an iPhone 5S, but eventually couldn't unlock the phone, which was then sent to FBI's forensic labs to retrieve the info. Still, a precedent was set, and nowadays post-mortem phone unlocking it is evidently a common practice, tip anonymous law enforcement officers - to find the last dealer of an addict who overdosed, for instance. As for Face ID on the X, and upcoming 2018 iPhones, it's more complicated, according to agent Moledor: "I don't know that's been used yet. It's probably going to be same as using the fingerprint. As long as the subject is recognisable, it should work."

source: Forbes



35. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

The title and the article don't line up. Was there an editorial correction? Title says Face ID not cracked yet... Quote in the article says they don't know if it's been attempted yet, but should work all the same. Also...Pro-Tip: When a person dies, the muscles go limp and the eyes open.

32. gamehead unregistered

Yikes. Creepy

31. youssef44

Posts: 547; Member since: Apr 29, 2014

Really not cracked ?? Hahah Im not sure that you say the truth!

12. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

I'm pretty sure someone could be charged with "Abusing A Corpse" under the conditions stated. If a person locks their phone with their finger, it is clear the intent was to keep info on it private. Their living wish, needs to be honored even after death. If a person were to die in a tux, nobody (not even the police) can put a clown suit on that person "just because". If there are criminal concerns, that's a different story. But in general, the police cannot use your dead grandmother's fingerprints to open her phone and look at or listen to her messages. Technically, a court would have the final say, but it is definitely arguable that a corpse abuse crime had been committed. Police should not be making a habit of using dead people's body parts for anything.

14. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Doctor can get away mutilating dead criminal. What's the big deal with touching finger or make corpse selfie?

7. NateDiaz

Posts: 1094; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Let me tell you guys something that you don't know. See the chrome ring in the Touch ID? It has a capacitive sensor that detects electrical field around it. A dead finger produces no electric field. So, a dead person's finger cannot unlock the iPhone. Special case: If you take fingerprint of the dead person, etch it to a very thin layer of polymer, place it over the sensor and place your own finger over it, then it may unlock the iPhone.


Posts: 2818; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

So, a dead person's finger cannot unlock the iPhone? What a BS, it works!

11. NateDiaz

Posts: 1094; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

40. mootu

Posts: 1541; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

They are partly correct. The easy way round it is to soak the fingertip in fabric softener for a few minutes, this rehydrates the print to as if the person were alive. Then "deglove" the end of the finger, slide it over a "live" persons fingertip and hey presto you have working touch id.

34. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Well, then I guess they're lying and unlocking iPhones with Touch ID in a totally different & unknown manner then. Does that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?

6. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

But iPhones require password after not using TouchID for couple of hours so they have to really hurry to do that

15. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

That just show apple is not confidence with it's touch Id.

5. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Err.. what about manually open the eye (with duct tape, or hold it with finger) and try to unlock? I mean, faceID work with glasses, facial hair, sunglass, and other stuff. It should work fine even with a little obstruction.

36. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

If they're dead, the eyes will just open anyhow. No need for tape really, though it can't hurt if you have it handy. As you pointed out... it already works with a range of obstructions.

4. SaRPeR

Posts: 171; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

They should just make a 3D model of the face. And it will unlock the phone.

1. IronTech

Posts: 154; Member since: May 27, 2016

Why do your eyes need to be open? It scans your face, not eyeris

2. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

*iris So how do NBI unlocks the likes of Nokia 100 or 3310?

38. sgodsell

Posts: 7659; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

This is such BS. The company's put back doors in. So stories like this are their to make it seem like the phones are really secure and safe. Give me a break.

3. drunkenjay

Posts: 1705; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

it requires you to look at the phone so you can't just put the phone in someones face to unlock it while they sleep.

30. audibot

Posts: 689; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

its the same as the samsungs gs3 when they added the blink feature to make sure it was alive face, also the ipx does use iris/eyes

33. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

That's probably incorrect, considering twins and close relatives such as children have unloved IPX's with Face ID. Plus, it also was pretty lenient unlocking phones with people of color. So, it's not using iris scanning.

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