Feeds

Fingerprint scans learn to spot chopped-off fingers

Also Gummi Bears, zombies, other common fakes

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

What do Gummi Bears and amputated fingers have in common? They’ve both been demonstrated as techniques for defeating fingerprint scanners. Now, a German company called Dermalog Identification Systems is using the way skin changes colour under pressure to block both the soft sweet and the dead hand of the zombie from accessing systems protected by fingerprint scans.

The problem is that if a scanner responds only to the image of the fingerprint, you don’t need a living print to be accepted. An impression of a print on a Gummi Bear, or if you’re of a more gruesome mindset, a finger removed from a user (either living or dead), can be scanned as a valid fingerprint.

However, if you’ve ever looked at what happens to skin if you put pressure on it, you’ll know that it changes colour. Dermalog has tagged that colour change as the characteristic that can separate the living from the dead.

When you press a finger against a surface – such as the scanner surface – blood is squeezed away from the surface. According to Dermalog’s research, published in Forensic Science International, that blanching is predictable and measurable. Living fingers absorb light at 550 nanometers when they first press the contact, and after the skin has “blanched”, at 1450nm.

As for that zombie you saw shambling down the street with a copy of the Communist Manifesto in one hand and Atlas Shrugged in the other: blood isn’t pumping any more, so there’s none in the capillaries to squeeze out; and without blanching, the characteristic changes in colour absorption won’t be observed.

To identify the telltale wavelengths, researchers say they tested “reflection and transmission spectra in the wavelength region from 400 to 1650nm” on both “living volunteers and corpses”. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.