Why Touch ID Makes Apple’s New iMacs Easier to Use

Faster, more secure logins

Key Takeaways

  • Apple’s new iMacs come with a keyboard that can let you log on faster with Touch ID. 
  • The use of biometric security like Touch ID is more convenient and secure than passwords, experts say. 
  • The new Magic Keyboards with Touch ID capability will let users quickly change to a different user profile with the touch of a finger.
The new Apple iMac in purple, with matching touch ID keyboard.

Apple

The addition of Touch ID to Apple’s new M1 iMac lineup offers a faster and more secure way to log in, experts say. 

The fingerprint-based Touch ID has been available for years for Apple’s MacBook and iPad lineup. But last week’s release of the technology for iMacs marks the first time you’ll be able to use your fingerprint to get into Apple’s latest desktops. 

"It will be quicker to sign in since all you have to do is provide your finger," Dan Moore, head of developer relations for FusionAuth, a company that builds identity management solutions, said in an email interview. "It'll also be more secure since a user will always have their fingerprint."

"That means they won't have to remember a complicated password or (more likely) a simple password," he added. "Another benefit is that there's no danger of someone else finding out how to login by a data breach on another site."

Touch ID Comes as Part of iMac Revamp

Last week, Apple announced the additional option of Touch ID for its colorful new iMacs. The Touch ID system sits on the corner of the iMac’s wireless keyboard.  The company unveiled an all-new Magic Keyboard with new colors, Touch ID, and even new keys for emoji, Spotlight, Do Not Disturb, and locking your Mac.

The new Magic Keyboards with Touch ID capability will let users quickly change to a different user profile with the touch of a finger and also will include the company's Magic Trackpad feature. Apple also touted the security of its fingerprint data.

"Biometric data, like any data, is at risk from cybercrime as well as privacy violations; the two are often intrinsically linked."

"Wireless fingerprint data transmission is made possible by a secure processor in the keyboard. It communicates directly with the secure enclave," the company said, "creating an encrypted channel to protect your fingerprint data from end to end."

The Touch ID sensor in Apple’s new Magic Keyboard reportedly works with any Mac fitted with Apple’s M1 processor.  But the sensor won’t work with the newly released iPad Pro, which also has the M1 chip. You can only buy the keyboard with the new M1-equipped iMac, which is available to preorder beginning April 30.

Biometric authentication, such as fingerprint recognition like Touch ID, offers many benefits to users, Moore said. The passwords can’t be stolen in large-scale hacks. And you can’t lose, forget, or share them. 

"All of these help ensure that when someone authenticates with a biometric factor, they are who they say they are," Moore added. “And that's the whole point of authentication with online systems.”

Moore said the biometric systems built into all the major operating systems, both desktop and mobile, are the best options for ordinary users. They don’t require special hardware or software. 

"These biometric authentication factors are also tied into browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, through the WebAuthN standard," he added.

A closeup of Touch ID on a MacBook.

The Average Tech Guy / Unspash

"This integration allows properly configured websites and applications to support strong biometric authentication by relying on the link between the hardware, the operating system, and the browser."

Of the biometric factors available in major operating systems, iris recognition is the most accurate, but isn't supported by all the major operating systems (only Windows), Moore said. Fingerprint recognition is the most accurate biometric system available on all four major operating systems, he added. 

Touch Doesn’t Guarantee Security

However, biometric security like Touch ID doesn’t guarantee safety. In 2019, a company that supplies government and financial-sector clients suffered a breach impacting almost 28 million data records, many containing biometric (face and fingerprint) data.

"Biometric data, like any data, is at risk from cybercrime as well as privacy violations; the two are often intrinsically linked," cybersecurity expert Miklos Zoltan said in an email interview.  

There are also privacy risks to using biometric security. China recently implemented facial recognition in schools. 

Eye being scanned on a mobile device.

David Malan / Getty Images

"The technology was used for general safety reasons, but was also found to be used to track students and even analyze attentiveness in class," Zoltan said.

"Social media is perhaps one of the most lateral uses of facial recognition, many of us using it without even thinking about it. The tag suggestions setting in Facebook, for example, allows you to tag friends and facial recognition matched images of a person across the platform."

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