New tech allows researchers to bypass fingerprint scanner on smartphone

It’s a common perception that we’re kind of safe by setting up fingerprints scanners on our smartphones. After all, what are the chances that someone in the world has the same fingerprint, and will try to break into our smartphones, right? Well, things are about to change after the researchers from Michigan State University, and New York University have developed a ‘masterprints’ technique capable of fooling the fingerprint reader.

The researchers have decided to expose the vulnerabilities in fingerprint scanners in the paper that was published in IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics & Security. In the paper, they claim to have created a set of the so-called “masterprints” and were able to bypass the scanners in about 65% of the time.

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As they claim, the prints were developed in a way that takes advantage of the sensors on most devices. The sensors in question have a flaw in design, and most of them are designed to only match partial scans, instead of every one of the ridges on your finger.

Also, since there are often more than one fingerprints recorded on the device, there are also a lot more of parts that the master prints can copy and therefore fool the device. This is good news for hackers and spy agencies who had trouble cracking devices protected by fingerprint scanners, but a very, very bad news for those who use these scanners for their security.

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One of the authors of this study, NYU’s Nasr Memon, has stated that “There’s a much greater chance of falsely matching a partial print than a full one, and most devices rely only on partials for identification.”

However, the researchers have still only tried the master prints in computer simulations, so there’s no reason to panic just yet. Despite this, Memon has stated that this kind of tech is improving and advancing at the very high pace and that shortly, hackers could potentially develop a glove with five different master prints, that would probably allow them to access more than half of the iPhones.

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So far, the Apple company has not yet responded to these findings. They have, however, left a comment on their website, in which they say that there’s a 1 in 50,000 probability of a match when it comes to combining separate parts of fingerprints to fool the Touch ID system.

Also, this is not the first time that the fingerprint scanners have been successfully bypassed. Last year, Michigan State University has successfully bypassed the sensors on Huawei Honor 7, as well as Galaxy S6. Still, the advancement of these methods might pose a problem in the future, but for now, it’s not perceived as a real threat.

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