TECH

How Secure Is Your Fingerprint? Researchers Fool Smartphone Scanner Using Inkjet Printer

08/03/2016 10:59 GMT | Updated 08/03/2016 12:59 GMT

How secure is the fingerprint sensor on your smartphone? Well it turns out that actually, it might not be anywhere near as secure as you might think.

fingerprint

Researchers at Michigan State University have found that by using an everyday inkjet printer, some special ink and paper they were able to recreate accurate 2D pictures of a person's fingerprint and then fool the fingerprint scanner on a smartphone.

The team were looking at fast, cheap methods with which hackers could easily obtain a fingerprint and then create what is known as a 'spoof fingerprint'.

What they found was that by simply replacing the ink cartridges with a special ink that's designed for printing circuit boards and by replacing normal paper with circuit board paper they were able to create an accurate enough print that could fool both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Huawei Honor 7.

printers

The ink and inkjet printer which can then be used to create the 'spoof' fingerprint.

It should be pointed out that this isn't the first time hackers have been able to fool biometric sensors. Back in 2013 hackers were able to devise a somewhat complex method which involved creating a precise 'mould' of a fingerprint using wood glue and then using that to trick a phone.

The resulting mould was then accurate enough to be read by the iPhone 5s.

fingerprint scanner

Researchers were able to successfully create a fingerprint accurate enough to be read by the iPhone 5s.

Before we all start panicking that fingerprint technology isn't safe though a good dose of reality should put your mind at rest.

Firstly the researchers point out that actually obtaining the equipment for their printing method is really difficult - the only printers that work with the special ink are now discontinued and even then you'll need to give them a professional clean before the special ink will properly on the paper.

Secondly, and this is probably the most important, for any of these to work in the first place you actually need an almost comically high-resolution image of a fingerprint in the first place.

Simply grabbing a grubby print off a phone screen isn't going to cut it. So unless you're going around willingly sharing high-resolution pictures of your fingerprint with people you've never met fingerprint still remains one of the safest forms of security around.