Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest association of hackers, claims it can reproduce your fingerprints from a couple of photos that show your fingers. At the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany, Jan Krissler, also known by his alias “Starbug,” explained how he copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
We’ve seen before how fingerprints can be copied from a person who touched any object with a polished surface (like a glass or a smartphone). Krissler meanwhile showed how these biometrical attributes can be snatched without having to first obtain the physical objects.
Instead, he explained how fingerprints can be snatched from persons at public events by simply using a “standard photo camera.” Because these fingerprints can be used for biometric authentication, Starbug believes that after his talk, “politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public.”
Krissler said he used commercially available software called VeriFinger to pull off the feat. The main source was a close-up picture of von der Leyen’s thumb, obtained during a news conference in October, along with photographs taken from different angles to get an image of the complete fingerprint.
If anyone can really use this method as easily as described, it could be a potentially big blow to the use of fingerprints for security purposes. Nonetheless, this is no reason to stop using them: It’s important to keep the findings in perspective.
Even if reproducing a fingerprint was a viable method for breaking into a system, be it a smartphone or a high-security vault, this news doesn’t mean that fingerprints are suddenly useless. Perfect security measures do not exist, and fingerprints definitely still have their place. They can still be more secure than PIN codes in many cases, and can always be used in conjunction with them or other types of passwords for multiple layers of security.
The full talk, in German, can be watched on YouTube.