Feeds

Get your German interior minister's fingerprint here

Hacktivists collect fingerprint of fingerprint collector

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

A hacker club has published what it says is the fingerprint of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany's interior minister and a staunch supporter of the collection of citizens' unique physical characteristics as a means of preventing terrorism.

In the most recent issue of Die Datenschleuder, the Chaos Computer Club printed the image on a plastic foil that leaves fingerprints when it is pressed against biometric readers.

No-one from the Germany-based group has been able to test the foil to see if it can fool a computer into believing it came from Schauble. But the technique has been shown to work with a variety of other people's prints on almost two-dozen readers, according to a colleague of the hacker who pulled off the demonstration.

Last two pages of magazine issue, showing article and including plastic film containing Schauble's fingerprint

Last two pages of magazine issue that published Schauble's fingerprint. The plastic film can be seen on the top middle of the right-hand page. (Click here for larger view.)

"The whole research has always been inspired by showing how insecure biometrics are, especially a biometric that you leave all over the place," said Karsten Nohl, a colleague of an amateur researcher going by the moniker Starbug, who engineered the hack. "It's basically like leaving the password to your computer everywhere you go without you being able to control it anymore."

Nohl, a graduate student at the University of Virginia, acted as an English translator for Starbug, who speaks German. The two recently released research showing how to crack the encryption of a widely used smartcard in a matter of minutes.

Schauble's fingerprint was captured off a water glass he used last summer while participating in a discussion celebrating the opening of a religious studies department at the University of Humboldt in Berlin. The print came from an index finger, most likely the right one, Starbug believes, because Schauble is right-handed.

Easily fooled

The print is included in more than 4,000 copies of the latest issue of the magazine, which is published by the CCC. The image is printed two ways: one using traditional ink on paper, and the other on a film of flexible rubber that contains partially dried glue. The latter medium can be covertly affixed to a person's finger and used to leave an individual's prints on doors, telephones or biometric readers.

Nohl said Starbug has used the same film to store his own fingerprints and has successfully fooled 20 different biometric readers, including those deployed in Germany's own passport offices. The machines, made by a company known as Cross Match Technologies, are in the process of being rolled out by German customs officials at border checkpoints, Nohl said.

Schauble is a big proponent of using fingerprints and other unique characteristics to identify individuals.

“Each individual’s fingerprints are unique," he is quoted as saying in this official interior department press release announcing a new electronic passport that stores individuals' fingerprints on an RFID chip. "This technology will help us keep one step ahead of criminals. With the new passport, it is possible to conduct biometric checks, which will also prevent authentic passports from being misused by unauthorized persons who happen to look like the person in the passport photo."

The magazine is calling on readers to collect the prints of other German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bavarian Prime Minister Guenther Beckstein and BKA President Joerg Ziercke.

"The thing I like a lot is the political activism of the hack," said Bruce Schneier, who is chief security technology officer for BT and an expert on online authentication. Fingerprint readers were long ago shown to be faulty, largely because designers opt to make the devices err on the side of false positives rather than on the side of false negatives.

Few readers, he said, have ways to verify the input path to prevent spoofing, and yet politicians frequently see them as a panacea for all kinds of complicated security problems.

"This minister guy, what is he going to do now?" Schneier asked. "His fingerprint is going to be known for all time." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?