Smartphone fingerprint sensors fooled by clay digit at Mobile World Congress

24 Feb 201666 Shares

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A sensor manufacturer from China has demonstrated how a fake fingerprint mould can fool a smartphone’s fingerprint sensor

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Advocates of fingerprint sensors, such as Apple, may have their hands full at present with encryption battles, but their moods are unlikely to be lifted by the news that a sensor manufacturer from China has demonstrated how a fake fingerprint mould can fool a smartphone’s fingerprint sensor.

At Mobile World Congress, Vkansee, a Chinese manufacturer of high-resolution fingerprint readers, has demonstrated how a clay mould of a person’s finger could fool today’s fingerprint sensors.

Vkansee president Jason Chaikin demonstrated to the BBC how a clay mould was able to fool existing fingerprint sensors on smartphones because the sensors weren’t high resolution enough.

No doubt, the company has developed its own sensor that is less likely to be hacked because it has four times higher resolution and can pick up more features on the finger.

The company’s VK2108 sensor is just 1.5 mm thick and it captures “third-level” data such as sweat pores and fingerprint ridges and offers the same 2000 PPI resolution. It can be bonded under 0.4-0.8mm cover glass.

While the process of creating a clay mould of a fingerprint took time, Chaikin said that, as more and more people move to biometric payments, criminals will put the time into it.

He described the battle to create watertight biometric security as something of an arm’s race between technologists and cyber thieves.

Yesterday at Mobile World Congress, it emerged that MasterCard is pushing out a new payment verification platform involving selfies and fingerprint verification in a move aimed at encouraging younger generations to adopt biometric security.

MasterCard, which has its global R&D headquarters in Dublin, said it plans to roll it out this summer in the UK, US, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark

Mobile wallet image via Shutterstock

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com