Samsung and Huawei fingerprint scanners fooled by an inkjet printer

8 Mar 2016

The fact that researchers were so easily able to spoof biometric fingerprint scanners could have significant ramifications across a whole swathe of areas from payments to enterprise level security

Both a Samsung Galaxy S6 and an Huawei Honor 7 were unlocked successfully using a standard inkjet printer by researchers from Michigan State University.

Researchers Kai Cao and Anil Jain from the university’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering took scans of several fingers and simply printed them in 2D on paper using conductive ink, which conducts a charge, and special AgIC paper used for printing PCB boards.

The researchers were able to unlock the two devices using scans over several fingers by printing them in 2D using the conductive ink.

However, they said that the Huawei Honor 7 was more difficult to hack, requiring more attempts, than the Samsung Galaxy S6.

‘It is only a matter of time before hackers develop improved hacking strategies, not just for fingerprints, but other biometric traits’

They warned that, using this technique, hackers can easily generate a large number of spoofs using fingerprint reconstruction or synthesis.

“This experiment further confirms the urgent need for anti-spoofing techniques for fingerprint recognition systems, especially for mobile devices, which are being increasingly used for unlocking the phone and for payment,” they said in their research paper.

“It should be noted that not all the mobile phones can be hacked using the proposed method.

“As the phone manufacturers develop better anti-spoofing techniques, the proposed method may not work for the new models of mobile phones.

“However, it is only a matter of time before hackers develop improved hacking strategies, not just for fingerprints, but other biometric traits as well that are being adopted for mobile phones, for example, face, iris and voice,” they said.

Fingerprint security image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years