Hackers are gearing up for Apple Inc's iPhone 5S release on Friday with a contest to crack the device's first-ever fingerprint security scanner, a high-tech feature that company says makes users' data more secure.
A micro venture capital firm joined a group of security researchers to offer more than $13,000 in cash along with bottles of booze, Bitcoin currency, books and other goodies to the first hacker who breaks the device in a contest promoted on the website.
Arturas Rosenbacher, founding partner of Chicago's IO Capital, which donated $10,000 to the hacking competition, said that the effort will bring together some of the hacking community's smartest minds to help Apple identify bugs that it may have missed.
"This is to fix a problem before it becomes a problem," he said. "This will make things safer."
Meanwhile, Forbes.com reported that a 36-year-old soldier living in Spain's Canary Islands, Jose Rodriguez, has already uncovered a security vulnerability affecting iOS 7, which Apple began distributing to existing iPhone and iPad customers on Wednesday.
The publication said that it is possible to bypass the lock screen of those devices in seconds to access photos, email, Twitter and other applications. It included a video demonstration on its website and advice on how users could thwart the bypass technique.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters that the company was preparing a fix that it would deliver as an update to iOS 7 when it was ready. "Apple takes user security very seriously," she said.
Among those getting ready for the hacking contest is David Kennedy, a former U.S. Marine Corps cyber-intelligence analyst who did two tours in Iraq and now runs his own consulting firm, TrustedSec LLC.
"I am just waiting to get my hands on it to figure out how to get around it first," the founder of the DerbyCon hacking conference told the Thomson Reuters Global Markets Forum this week. "I'll be up all night trying."
Security experts worry about the implications of using the module to grant access to sensitive data on the phone and potentially enabling mobile purchases.
The fingerprint scanner on the top-of-the-line iPhone lets users unlock their devices or make purchases on iTunes by simply pressing their finger on the home button. It has been hailed as a major step in popularizing the use of biometrics in personal electronics.
Security engineer Charlie Miller, known in hacking circles for uncovering major bugs in the