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Fooling a fingerprint scanner

I am very interested in the area of biometrics and am currently researching in that area.

I would like to find out about the limitations of biometric products, in particular fingerprint scanners. Is it possible to use cellophane to get a print of a fingerprint, place it on the scanner with a certain degree of pressure, and successfully fool the fingerprint scanner? Can the machines/ scanners in all areas of biometrics be fooled, and if so how?


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It depends on the type of scanner. Some scanners are based upon capacitance, and some are based on optics. Some use both, and as you might guess, they're the best ones.

An optical reader is less likely to be fooled by cellophane or some other sort of plastic but may not get a good enough image for it to consider it a real fingerprint. The capacitance-based ones simply won't see it as a fingerprint. People who wash dishes for a living or do other things that remove finger skin often have the problem that scanners don't read them at all.

Exactly the effect depends on who made the scanner, but this *is* the sort of thing that the makers take into account. If you have one handy, try it and see what happens. I bet that the most likely thing to happen is that it won't work at all.


For more information on this topic, visit these other searchSecurity resources:
Best Web Links: Biometrics
Ask the Expert: Market leader in biometrics
Scheier's Security Product Round Up: Biometrics improving but not perfect


This was first published in March 2002

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