Feeds

Sweaty palms? You're nicked, chummy

Trace elements can now reveal fingerprints

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Researchers at the Los Alamos laboratory in the US have developed a new way of detecting fingerprints, using the chemical elements left behind in fingerprint residue. That is sweat, to you and me.

When we sweat, our bodies excrete salts, such as sodium chloride and potassium chloride. These salts can actually be detected in fingerprints using a technique called micro-X-ray fluorescence (MXRF) which will pick out the constituent elements.

Fingerprints in glorious technicolour

The elements make it possible to "see" a fingerprint where the salts have been deposited in the patterns of fingerprints, the lines that forensic scientists call friction ridges.

Traditionally, forensic scientists dust a crime scene for prints, literally adding a layer of coloured powder to a surface. The dust sticks to sebum, an oily substance left behind by each finger, and enhances the contrast between the surface and the print's friction ridges. This technique does have its limitations, particularly when a surface is multicoloured, or highly textured.

The research team sees the technique as a companion to more traditional methods. They say it could be particularly useful for detecting prints left by children, because kids' hands don't leave sebum behind for the contrast enhancing agent to stick to. It is also a non-invasive technique, so any print examined using MXRF is left pristine for examination by other methods, such as DNA extraction.

Los Alamos scientist Christopher Worely, who presented the research to the American Chemical Society in San Diego, last week, said that the new method should not be regarded as a replacement for traditional fingerprint detection and collection. He stressed that some fingerprints will not leave behind enough of these trace elements to be seen using MXRF. ®

Related stories

Biometrics: the legal challenge
UK police fingerprint system collapses
DIY fingerprint idea thwarts ID thieves

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.