Dangerous digits: Showing your fingerprints could lead to identity theft due to higher resolution cameras


posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 6:00 AM EST


Could someone steal your fingerprints through an image? What may sound like extreme fear mongering does have some basis in reality as Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) has recently issued a warning to the public to not share images online of themselves flashing the “V” sign (often referred to as the peace sign). Fingerprint technology is sophisticated and advanced enough now for people to steal your identify through your fingerprints in a photograph.

Granted, it does take ideal conditions for this to be possible. The image needs to be high enough resolution for fingerprint stealing-individuals to be able to actually see your fingerprint, but as smartphone cameras get better, many of us carry a capable enough camera right in our pockets. Further, lighting and focus need to be spot on. Researchers at NII were able to rip fingerprints out of images of subjects taken a little less than ten feet away.

DigitalRev points out that this isn’t the first time someone has proven able to copy fingerprints through images. A German hacking group achieved a similar feat in 2014 by cloning the prints of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. To help combat this weakness of fingerprint scanning technology, biometrics company Vkansee is increasing the resolution of their security equipment past 2000 dots per inch and also adding increased pulse and pressure recognition tools to help foil would-be identity thieves.

Ultimately, no identification system will ever be totally foolproof, but in the meantime, maybe don’t show off your unmasked digits in images. If you insist on showing your fingerprints in photos, NII will be offering consumers a transparent film which hides prints without interfering with identity verification, such as fingerprint scanners on smart devices, but it won’t be available for a couple of years.

(Seen via DIY Photography. Index image from the public domain. It has been resized.)