A smartphone's fingerprint scanner can be fooled in only 15 minutes using a standard inkjet printer, conductive paper and a special type of ink.
The news comes from a team of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU), who proved that the biometric security method has serious flaws. The reveal should raise some questions for the tech industry, where the handset manufacturers put their hopes for security into the fingerprint scanner.
The team of researchers demonstrates that prints can be quickly gathered from the handset itself, printed out with a regular printer and then used for the device's unlocking. What made us shiver was the fact that a supposedly high-end flagship could be unlocked by using a simple piece of paper.
The caveat is that the AgIC-manufactured paper and ink have conductive properties. The whole process takes no longer than 15 minutes.
This is not the first time tech enthusiasts set out to spoof fingerprints. The MSU scientists give credit to Germany's Chaos Computer Club, which managed to bypass the fingerprint scanner on an iPhone 5s by forging 2.5D print out of wood glue or latex milk. The American team points out that the procedure made use of a time-consuming manual method that holds no candle to simply printing out the fingerprint emulator.
AgIC paper allows users to print out a copy of a lifted fingerprint in no time. Just remember to flip the lifted fingerprint horizontally before printing.
"This experiment further confirms the urgent need for anti-spoofing techniques for fingerprint recognition systems, especially for mobile devices which are being increasingly used for unlocking the phone and for payment," reads the presentation paper of the experiment.
The good news is not all handsets are created equal, meaning that some are immune to the trick. However, the cautionary tale remains and we expect to see anti-spoofing techniques emerging soon from manufacturers.
By using conductive ink, the scientists were able to print fingerprints on paper and use it to unlock smartphones such as the Galaxy S6 from Samsung and Honor 7 from Huawei. For Samsung, this is not the first handset that comes out as low on security. In the spring of 2014, a team of researchers broke into the Galaxy S5.
Watch the video below to get an idea how easy the process actually is, and how frail the security measure shows to be.
How do you feel about the ubiquitous presence of fingerprint sensor on modern smartphones? Let us know in the comments section.