AOH :: ISN-3162.HTM

Steal my ID, steal my fingers - the public gets nervous

Steal my ID, steal my fingers - the public gets nervous
Steal my ID, steal my fingers - the public gets nervous 

By Mark Ballard
18th October 2006

The public fears losing their fingers to ruthless biometric ID thieves 
in the fingerprint-controlled future, apparently. Or at least, so says 
Frost & Sullivan analyst Sapna Capoor, who argued unconvincingly that "A 
dead finger is no good to a thief."

If you have a fingerprint scanner protecting your family jewels, your 
data might be safe, but what about your fingers?

So, it's all getting out of hand? Then on the other... there are 
recorded instances of people having their fingers chopped off, and the 
biometric industry takes the issue seriously.

For example, there were the Malaysian crooks who nabbed a man's fingers 
in order to operate the biometric security on the S-class Mercedes they 
stole from him.

Nevertheless, biometric firms are doing what they can to detect whether 
a fingerprint being scanned is alive or not, said Jean Francois 
Mainguet, chief scientist of fingerchip biometrics at Atmel-France, and 
inventor of the sweeping technique for direct silicon fingerprint 
scanning (he was awarded his patent on 9/11, as it happens).

Speaking at Biometrics 2006 in London, Mainguet said it wasn't yet 
possible to detect "liveliness", and even when it was, this would 
guarantee security no more than a regular biometric.

"Absolute security doesn't exist," he said. If you could detect 
liveliness, you wouldn't be able to tell if someone was accessing some 
system or authorising some payment under duress or not.

Security causes an escalation of causes and reactions just like the arms 
race. Want to cheat the banking system? Forge an ID. Fingerprint scanner 
making it tricky? Chop someone's finger off. Live fingerprint scanner? 
Hold someone's family at gun point.

The techniques being explored for live scanners include inducing 
involuntary responses via an electric charge to cause a spasm in skin 
pressed against the glass. Or there's the use of light fluctuations to 
induce involuntary responses from the user of an iris scanner.

They can all be faked, said Mainguet. The electrical response, for 
example is as easy as making a frog's leg twitch if you have chopped 

There is a solution, he said, which is to use a variety of biometrics to 
identify someone. Biometrics? You just can't get enough of them. At some 
shows, anyway.

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