(CNN) -- As we store more and more of our personal lives on smartphones, mobile security is becoming increasingly crucial. A password offers some protection, but it may not deter a serious hacker.
For users of Apple devices, more help might be on the way.
According to several reports, the next version of Apple's mobile operating system suggests future iPhones will have biometric scanners that read fingerprints. A user could register his or her prints with the device, then place a thumb on the home button to unlock the phone.
Fingerprint verification could also add an extra layer of security when making mobile payments, for example.
A biometric sensor has been a rumored feature on the next iPhone for months. But the rumors got a boost when a beta version of iOS 7 was released Monday night to Apple developers. At least one developer found a folder called "BiometricKitUI" containing lines of code that made numerous references to "fingerprint," according to reports by 9to5Mac, Extreme Tech and other blogs.
"You can then unlock your phone by putting your thumb on the home button. No longer will friends and family be able to pick up and peruse your phone -- no longer will you have to key in your passcode every time you want to do something," wrote Sebastian Anthony for Extreme Tech.
Of course, many blogs trade in feverish rumors about Apple products that later prove unfounded, and there's no proof that such a feature will show up on the next iPhone, expected to be launched this fall.
Next Media Animation, the Taiwan-based production company that turns news stories into animated clips, has weighed in on the fingerprint scanner, suggesting it won't appear on iPhones until 2014.
Observers expect the as-yet-unnamed phone (iPhone 5S?) to have a faster processor, better battery life and an improved camera, possibly with a slow-motion video function.
Apple also has been experimenting with larger screens for the iPhone and iPad.