Apple does one thing in the security realm that competitors seem to not comprehend. The marriage of security and convenience. You find it in Apple products. You don’t find the same security or convenience in major competing products.
Here’s a good example. Touch ID. The built-in fingerprint scanner is fast and easy to use to unlock iPhone, iPad, and upper level MacBook Pro models. How fast? The newest iPhone Home buttons– which act as the scanner and activator– are almost instantaneous. Lift, touch, open on iPhone. Touch ID is so good that sometimes it can be a bit too fast, but so what? Even U.S. government hackers can’t get into a locked iPhone, and it can be set to erase itself after 10 failed passcode attempts.
What’s not to like? Security married convenience.
Apple added a few other safeguards which help extend security but do not pose much of an inconvenience. For example, whenever an iPhone restarts the password is required to unlock it and activate Touch ID for future unlocks. That extra level of security is not too inconvenient for customers.
On the security side, the scanner does not take a picture of your fingerprint. Instead, it the scanner makes a mathematical representation of the fingerprint and stores it in the CPUs Secure Enclave. It’s not easy to get the data out and it’s not a picture anyway.
Security and convenience went on a date and got married.
There are some legal issues about iPhone customers who could be compelled by authorities to use their finger to unlock a device, while not necessarily being compelled to provide authorities with a password. Those are the outliers and do not affect the vast majority of Apple’s customers.
What about Face ID, the new face scanner function in iPhone X?
Actually, Face ID works much the same way, though how the iPhone X captures the face print is different. With Face ID, the iPhone sprays a customer’s face with infrared light, then reads the more than 30,000 infrared dots on the face to form a depth map to match a 2D infrared image. That data instantaneously creates a sequence of 2D images and depth maps which are signed and stored in the Secure Enclave.
The end result is another marriage of Security and Convenience, though in this case, Security is enhanced. Apple says a random person in the population could unlock iPhone X with about one in 1-million odds, vs. 1 in 50-thousand for Touch ID. Higher Security matched Convenience. Again.
What we don’t know is whether or not Convenience is enhanced. Touch ID works well. Lift up the iPhone, touch the Home button, unlock the phone or iPad.
Third party applications which require an extra level of security can use Touch ID and Face ID much the same way. Usually it’s little more than a Settings option within the app. This option works well for password manager apps.
The point here is almost obvious, but not quite. With Touch ID and Face ID, Security married Convenience. There might be a good reason we haven’t seen Touch ID show up in any other devices besides a few of the MacBook Pro models. Why? Face ID is on the way, a perfect complement to the built-in FaceTime camera. Think of a small Notch– similar to the iPhone X’s notch– where the FaceTime camera is now. That would provide better security and more convenience than a password or Touch ID on the Mac.
Security and Convenience got married at Apple.