Fingerprint Security: Not as Secure as You Think
by Tara Swords
This is how it works: The tech industry comes up with strong security technology, and hackers crack it. The tech industry comes up with stronger security technology, and hackers crack it.
Security is an endless game of cat-and mouse, so we shouldn't expect things to be any different with fingerprint security.
Recently, a couple of researchers at Michigan State University published a paper describing how they hacked a Samsung Galaxy and the Huawei Honor using only a scanner, printer, and some glossy transparent paper. Just Googling "fingerprint security hacked" will reveal a plethora of stories about people who have hacked various phone models using different methods, from Elmer's glue to gummy bears.
Biometric security measure that rely on features unique to your body might seem like a foolproof idea. After all, you're the only person (or very nearly the only person) with your fingerprint. But the problem is that fingerprints, like passwords, can be stolen. In fact, you leave them behind on nearly everything you touch. And when compared to a password or security token, fingerprints have one major drawback: You can't go get new ones when your old ones are compromised.
But this doesn't mean that it's a bad idea to use your fingerprint to secure your device. In fact, it's pretty smart. To recreate a fingerprint takes time and patience and a very good copy of the print -- not just a smudge that somebody left on a doorknob. Plus, most devices will allow only a few failed fingerprint unlocking attempts. After that, even the real fingerprint won't unlock the device; you have to enter an alphanumeric passcode.
That's why experts recommend you choose a complex alphanumeric passcode as a backup to your fingerprint. Use as many characters as your device allows, mixing letters and numbers, and avoid the obvious things like birthdays and names. For now, at least, the combination of a good code and your fingerprint should be enough to thwart the average hacker or thief. But the future is another matter -- there's no telling how long it will be before hackers catch up and force the tech industry to race ahead again.
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