Oct 20, 2016 | By Alec

Fingerprints are a key plot tool in any murder drama, and a fingerprint found at a crime scene often identifies the killer in a movie or series’ epic conclusion. But they are also often used to gain or bar access to some top level security compound, and in very James Bond-esque fashion the hero or bad guy resorts to cutting the finger off one of the minions to fool security systems. Though you and I might not do a lot with fingerprints on a daily basis, the implication is obvious: they are unique identification keys can have numerous identity applications in the near future. But then what’s stopping criminals from 3D printing a replica of your fingerprint and using it to commit crimes in your name?

While it sounds like the plot of the next Tom Cruise film, this is could actually be a problem. In fact, researchers from Michigan State University led by professor Anil Jain discovered that it’s not a farfetched scenario at all while testing and calibrating fingerprint scanners. As part of the study, various commonly used fingerprint scanners (from police departments, airport services, banks and so on) were systematically tested.

For the sake of consistency, they actually 3D printed life-sized hand models, complete with five fingerprints, and found that the results were remarkably accurate. Using a high-resolution 3D printer capable of generating the same ridges and textures of actual fingers, the finished hand could easily bypass security systems. “This is the first time a whole hand 3-D target has been created to calibrate fingerprint scanners. As a byproduct of this research we realized a fake 3-D hand, essentially a spoof, with someone’s fingerprints, could potentially allow a crook to steal the person’s identity to break into a vault, contaminate a crime scene or enter the country illegally,” Jain revealed.

Suddenly a second purpose of this study appeared, and that is finding out how resistant commercially available fingerprint scanners are to these forgeries, and what factors do and do not ensure adequate protection. “We have highlighted a security loophole and the limitations of existing fingerprint scanning technology, now it’s up to the scanner manufacturers to design a scanner that is spoof-resistant. The burden is on them to tell whether the finger being placed on the scanner is real human skin or a printed material,” said Jain.

Recognizing the necessity of this second study goal, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provided the funds to develop new standard models and procedures for reliable fingerprint evaluation. “We are very pleased with this research and how it is showing the uncertainties in the process and what it can mean for the accuracy of the readers,” said Nicholas Paulter, who heads the Security Technologies Group at NIST and a co-authored the study. “The FBI, CIA, military and manufacturers will all be interested in this project.”

The results of this remarkable study, including the process used to 3D print this identity stealing hand, were presented at the 15th International Conference of the Biometrics Special Interest Group in September – where it received the best paper award. For more information, check out the conference website here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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RobinLeech wrote at 10/20/2016 11:42:08 PM:

Fingerprints are not used in security systems, as that would make them inherently unsecured. Fingerprints are used to track, not to provide secure access and it's counterproductive and dangerous to compromise security by incorporating biometrics into security systems. If they wanted to prevent identity theft etc. they'd advise that biometrics never be used for security or identification purposes. Passwords are still more secure and biometrics are still idiotic and threatening to personal security.

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