Android fingerprint scanners can be fooled by an inkjet printer

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As the mobile industry starts to move away from using PINs and passcodes in favour of biometric security such as fingerprint scanners, researchers from Michigan State University have found that some biometric security isn’t actually that secure.

Researchers tested the fingerprint scanners on two leading Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Huawei Honor 7, and found that both devices could be unlocked using a fingerprint printed from a regular inkjet printer.

The researchers were able to unlock the phones after scanning the fingerprints of several fingers and printing them using a special conductive ink and onto paper which is used normally used to print electronic circuits.

In a video, the researchers demonstrate just how easily they were able to take prints off the phones themselves and then unlock each device.

As the researchers highlight in the their video, previously successful attempts at fooling the fingerprint scanners on the iPhone 5s required the use of a 2.5D print made out of liquid latex or wood glue.

However, this new technique is much easier and quicker, simply lifting the prints off the device and onto the special paper which is made by electronics firm AgIC.

The Huawei Honor 7 and Samsung Galaxy S6 use similar fingerprint scanners as many other Android devices, including those found on the LG G5 and across Google’s Nexus range, so it is possible the same technique could be used to unlock a whole host of Android smartphones.

Of course the risk of this happening to your average smartphone user is small but it does highlight the fact that even biometric technology is not completely secure and that anti spoofing technology needs to be improved on mobile devices, which are increasingly be used to not only unlock devices but also to initiate mobile payments.

Jonathan Fairfield
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK's leading watch and horology websites.
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