Science & Technology
Can your fingerprints be stolen from a photo?
By T.K. Randall
January 14, 2017 · 6 comments
Fingerprint scanners are cropping up everywhere. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Rachmaninoff
Researchers in Japan have warned that it is now much easier for thieves to acquire your fingerprints.
Fingerprint scanners, which are used to enable access to everything from smartphones to cash machines, have become increasingly common over the last few years.
But while fingerprint scanning technology may seen like a secure way for a device to confirm who someone is, identity thieves have already succeeded in finding ways to gain unauthorized access.
According to a team at Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII), the resolution of smartphone cameras has been increasing so much in recent years that it is now possible for criminals to steal fingerprint data from an uploaded social media image in which a person's fingertips are visible.
Selfies showing someone flashing the "peace" sign are a particularly good target for this.
"Just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available," said NII researcher Isao Echizen.
"Fingerprint data can be recreated if fingerprints are in focus with strong lighting in a picture."
While it is still very difficult to actually use this data to fool a fingerprint scanner, the researchers have warned that the technology will likely become more widely available to thieves in the future.
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