Hackers are gearing up for today's iPhone 5S release with a contest to crack the device's first-ever fingerprint scanner, a high-tech feature that Apple Inc. 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.

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 experts worry about the implications of using the module to grant access to sensitive data on the phone and potentially enabling mobile purchases.

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.

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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.

-- Reuters