Copying Your Fingerprint From Photos


So it’s now 2015, the year of the hover board, self lacing shoes and holograms – according to Back to the Future at least. As technology continues its unrelenting march to improving, streamlining and hugely benefiting our lives, is it also time to admit we have no control over the abilities of new technology? Almost everything to we thought sacred, personal and indefinable, can be found or created by technology – including our fingerprints.

Jan Krissler took to the stage at Europe’s largest association of hackers to detail how easy it was to recreate a fingerprint. All from readily (and freely) available public photographs, he showed a proof of concept in a recreation of the digit marker contained on German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen thumb.

“Biometrics that rely on static information like face recognition or fingerprints – it’s not trivial to forge them but most people have accepted that they are not a great form of security because they can be faked,” says cybersecurity expert Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University.

Wear Gloves

fingerprint copy print
Copy your print from a few snaps?

31 year old Krissler, in some strange Guardians of the Galaxy spin-off, is referred to as Starbug by the fellow members of Chaos Computer Club he was presenting to, all in the hope of showing that the fingerprint already used by the likes of Apple is insecure. However at this point it is important to note, no proof of the ability was shown. A simple demo could have been possible, but Starbug instead chose to clone a fingerprint of a pseudo celebrity.

Why he chose Ursula von der Leyen remains to be seen. Presumably this has something to do with needing a clear picture of her thumb print and also others from different angles. So with this in mind claims made that “politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public after hearing about his research” seems a little far fetched.

Vein Patterns

fingerprint copy vein
V3 showed Barclays new vein scanner

There are worries however, as Apple, HTC, and Samsung all have implemented security around your digits – all of which can be fooled by anything from latex gloves to PVA glue. Not to mention its continued use in high security buildings, laptops and computer systems.

Fingerprint scanning is also set to be adopted in a new wave of smart bank cards we reported on back in October.  However the next step may be finger vein recognition, a system of “pattern-recognition techniques based on images of human finger vein patterns beneath the skin’s surface.”

This works either as a two step authentication or separate from the fingerprint, and is something already under heavy testing and in use by Barclays business customers, as well as at cash machines in Poland and Japan. This only works with a fully functioning finger and isn’t affected by blood flow or pressure: removing the prospect of a criminal removing your digits!

Last Updated on November 27, 2018.


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