Fingerprint scanners found on gadgets like the iPhone rely on the computing power of the device to verify the unique mark. But Synaptics has announced the first standalone fingerprint scanner which is more secure as it's isolated from any malware that might be present on the device.

Synaptics' "Match-In-Sensor" technology is the first fully hardware-encapsulated fingerprint sensor and matching solution. The technology isolates  fingerprint image enrollment, pattern storage and biometric matching within the fingerprint sensor, thereby nullifying any on-device threats.

The sensor has its own microprocessor and firmware which allows it to match the scanned fingerprint against a database also stored on the scanner. The technology is a great improvement in fingerprint scanning because it means the technology is not reliant on the security of the device which, particularly in mobiles, can be patchy at best.

"The entire mobile payments ecosystem, driven by rapid adoption of fingerprint authentication technology, is increasingly concerned about reducing security risks and eliminating threats of attack," said Ritu Favre, senior vice president and general manager of the Biometric Products Division at Synaptics. "Match-in-Sensor technology provides for the requirements of smartphone manufacturers, the convenience for end-users, and the security for online service providers when authenticating their customers."

As fingerprint authentication has become more popular so, too, have attempts to bypass the system. Shortly after Apple introduced fingerprint security on the iPhone 5S, German hackers found a way to bypass the system using fake prints. They were able to access the phone using a photograph of the user's fingerprint. Another hacker was able to clone the German finance minister's fingerprint from a photo he took at a press conference.

Neither of these cases used malware from the device itself to bypass the security system but it is another obvious route hackers could take so the new development from Synaptics makes sense. The company says it is already sampling the Match-In-Sensor with device manufacturers today, so we can expect devices to come packaged with the new security in the not-too-distant future. 

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr 

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