Feeds

Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS

Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The much-hyped fingerprint scanner on Samsung’s flagship handset the Galaxy S5 can be fooled just days after the device was launched.

Researchers at Germany’s Security Research Labs (SRLabs) publicised their findings in a YouTube clip. According to the narrator, the scanner was hoodwinked "under lab conditions, but is based on nothing more than a camera phone photo" of a print left on the phone's screen.

A mould is then made from the digital photo of the fingerprint, into which wood glue is poured: the resulting shape can be pressed against the S5's scanner to authenticate as the victim.

The hack is concerning given that it grants access to “highly sensitive apps” such as PayPal, giving “a would-be attacker an even greater incentive to learn the simple skill of fingerprint spoofing”, the researchers said.

Youtube Video

PayPal claimed fingerprint authentication still offers “an easier and more secure way to pay” on mobiles than passwords and PINs. It issued the following statement in a bid to head of a potential consumer backlash:

PayPal never stores or even has access to your actual fingerprint with authentication on the Galaxy S5. The scan unlocks a secure cryptographic key that serves as a password replacement for the phone. We can simply deactivate the key from a lost or stolen device, and you can create a new one. PayPal also uses sophisticated fraud and risk management tools to try to prevent fraud before it happens. However, in the rare instances that it does, your eligible transactions are covered by our buyer protection policy.

Another criticism of Samsung is that it has failed to learn from the mistakes of other tech companies which have gone before it in trying to implement effective biometric authentication systems.

Most notably, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on Apple’s iPhone 5S was hacked by Chaos Computer Club just 48 hours after its launch last September, using a similar method to SRLabs.

Unlike the Apple device, the S5 currently does not require a password to authenticate after a certain number of incorrect attempts to swipe in. This means attackers can theoretically have as many goes as they like as long as they reboot the handset every so often.

This kind of oversight is surprising considering the amount of money Samsung has spent on building its latest star handset.

A teardown by analyst IHS iSuppli estimates the total bill of materials at $256.52 (£153) for a 32GB version, significantly more than an iPhone 5S with the same amount of NAND flash memory, which comes in at $207 (£123.80).

Major costs attached to the new device include the Qualcomm MSM8974AC processor at an estimated $41 (£24.50) which, when combined with NAND and DRAM, comes to $102.37 (£61).

The 1920x1080 OLED display is the next priciest component at $63, followed by the 16MP and 2MP cameras ($18.70, £11) and the 2 x 2800mAh 3.85V Li Ion batteries ($11, £6.60).

The fingerprint scanner is not broken out by cost although the market analyst claimed that the S5 has more sensors “than IHS has ever detected in a smartphone design”.

Samsung HQ couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the SRLabs research. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
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.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.