Researchers in Japan have been able to “copy” fingerprint data from a digital photo of a person holding up a peace sign. This research is surely going to raise questions over the potential theft of fingerprint data through photos. Currently, many smartphones, laptops, and tablets feature some sort of biometric finger scanner that allows the user to unlock their devices without a password. This research will most certainly be discovered by those who seek to steal identities and that should worry all of us.
“One can use it to assume another identity, such as accessing a smartphone or breaking and entering into a restricted area such as an apartment,” Isao Echizen, a professor at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, told Reuters Television.
“Fingerprint authentication is used for many purposes, including smartphones, and each manufacturer decides how the authentication process is maintained,” spokesman Yasutaka Imai said. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation carefully”.
The researchers took a high-resolution photo at 3 meters with a 135mm lens on an SLR camera of a person flashing the “peace” sign. While these were controlled parameters, it still shows that it is possible to extract this data from a high-quality image. Cameras and imaging equipment have become much more powerful and it’s entirely possible to catch a good quality image of fingers from a further distance.
Security has been a hot topic over the past year as more companies like Yahoo, Twitter, and even government agencies have fallen victim to hackers. As technology and security continue to get more sophisticated, ways to use that technology to break security will be devised. This research will be interesting to see develop, for now, there have been no reports of this method being used.
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